Race Report: Cardimax Clark Ultramarathon 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

It's been two weeks since I reached another milestone in running. Last September 3 to 4, I ran my first ever 100km race at the Cardimax Clark Ultramarathon.

When I registered for it, I knew what I was signing up for. I did my best to prepare for the event, while being cautious about over-training. From my 80km race in April and 50km race in May, I had about three months to prepare in which I deliberately avoided any more ultra-marathon events because I was scared that my injury would return. I did some mileage runs, but I mostly relied on strength and conditioning workouts as advised by a teammate, who's also an experienced ultra-runner.

Come race day, I was feeling nervous, which was really normal. I mean, who wouldn't be nervous at the idea of running a hundred kilometers, right? I had a game plan and I promised myself that I will stick to it no matter what. I had my provisions ready: energy gels, Saltsticks, anti-pain meds, petroleum jelly, band aids, food like gummy candies and fresh fruits, and a change of shoes, shirt, socks, and head wear. I came from my shift, which meant that I had zero sleep the night before. I tried my best to catch some zzzs while on the way to the venue and a couple of hours before the race, but to no avail because I am a light sleeper. So I bought a bottle of energy drink to wake myself up.
at the starting line
with my Ayala Triads family
Photo Credit: Don of Active Pinas

The gun start was at 6pm. During the first half of the race, I was feeling fine. I was excited, even. However, I tried to suppress my excitement and did my best to just take it easy. I stuck to my 4:1 run-walk plan. Around the 15th km mark, a fellow runner asked if he could join me. I agreed since most ultra runs are better if you have someone to chitchat with. We had more than 80km to go and that's still a looong way. 
just passed the 21km mark
Photo Credit: Don of Active Pinas

It was around the third U-turn that I started to feel my feet getting tired. My socks were kinda thick and I figured I needed to change them, but when we arrived at the drop-bag area, my drop-bag was nowhere to be found. The marshals said they might have misplaced it and left it at the starting line. I felt panicky, and I was on the verge of crying. I was also very hungry at the time and I couldn't bring myself to eat the lugaw that they provided at that station. It was something that I was not used to eating during races, and I didn't want to risk anything by trying something new. After a few minutes of pleading with the marshals, they finally decided to do something about my "misplaced" drop-bag and told me that they will contact someone at the starting line. I realized that I already wasted too much time for something that I had absolutely no control over, so I decided to proceed to the fourth U-turn. I told the marshals that I expected that my drop-bag would be there once I pass their station again. What came next was the longest bridge followed the longest rolling hills I've ever encountered in my entire life. When I returned to the aid station, my drop-bag was finally there. I changed into thinner socks and grabbed the fruits that I brought. Unfortunately, the guy who was pacing with me couldn't go on because of an injury, so he decided to be left behind. I continued, eating an apple while running. The rest of the first loop went by uneventful and I finally reached the transition area.

Upon reaching the transition area, I made a quick hydration stop and immediately started on the second loop. I got lost for a bit past the first 500m because I forgot where I was supposed to turn left. I was able to find my way back to the route when I saw one of my team mates who has also just started on the second loop. Several more minutes passed, I started feeling sleepy to the point that I felt my eyes closing even when I was running. Too dangerous. So I decided to do all sorts of things to wake myself up. I started talking to myself, and no, I wasn't going crazy. LOL. Then I started singing. Quite loudly, which actually worked as it helped cure my sleepiness and boredom. I reached the first U-turn, had a pinch of salt, and grinned widely at the camera. 
at the aid station at the Clark Main Gate
Photo Credit: sir Eric of Active Pinas

I continued with my run-walk and it was towards the 67th kilometer that I miscalculated a step and twisted my right ankle. I felt a sharp pain in that area. I tried to ignore it but I couldn't, so when I saw an ambulance, I asked for pain reliever. It worked so I was able to continue running. When I reached the next U-turn, I saw Don sitting on the sidewalk. He ran to meet me and then walked with me to the aid station. He told me to sit for a while and so I did. He then handed me a slice of bread with peanut butter, and proceeded to give me a pep talk while wiping my legs and face with a small towel drenched in cold water. Before the U-turn, I was already entertaining the idea of quitting but the pep talk helped. I resumed my run feeling hopeful, but it didn't last long because the effect of the pain reliever wore off quickly. Either that or my ankle's condition was worse than I thought. And so I brisk walked my way to the next aid station where I changed shirts, shoes, and head gear. It was also where a runner from Team Marupok gave me a strong medicine for pain (thank you, kuya) before I continued. When I reached the third U-turn, I hydrated very quickly. 
approaching the aid station at the SCTEX gate
Photo Credits: sir Ronald of Active Pinas

I then made my way back to the aid station and grabbed the banana that I brought. Then I was back on the longest-bridge-ever followed by the longest-rolling-hills-ever, and for some reason, I finished that part of the route faster than when I did it the first time. I had about twelve kilometers to go when it started to rain really hard. That moment, I wanted nothing more than just to finish the race and get some sleep. I was soaked, I was freezing cold, and my ankle was in so much pain. I felt like crying. 

I planned to walk for the rest of the race, but when I reached the last kilometer and I saw that I had less than ten minutes to go, I started to quicken my pace. My ankle was throbbing and I ignored it. Last 500m to go, and I saw Del running towards me and then she started pacing me. That was when I started to run faster. I heard the countdown to the cut-off and I sprinted towards the finish line. I crossed the line with several seconds past the cut-off. It was done. I finished it. I was beyond the cut-off, and still what mattered is that I finished it. I ran a hundred kilometers plus two.
with Del, who was telling me to just go on
final stretch
Photo Credit: Don of Active Pinas

At this point, I want to thank everyone who has been a part of my race experience. I already gave credits in my post-race Facebook post but I want to do it again here. First, thank you to the Cardimax Clark Ultramarathon organizing team for the race experience, and most especially to Ms. Tin Ferrera, for the race kit. Thank you to the marshals, medics, and volunteers who spend their weekend taking care of us, runners. Thank you to my fellow runners whom I saw at the race, for encouraging me, as we going through the crazy route. Thank you to Ms. Daphne Codilla for your inspirational message before the race and after. I will remember them by heart. Thank you to my Ayala Triads family for the moral support before, during, and after the race. Lastly, thank you to my Active Pinas family for being my main support system and for being our all-too-awesome photographers (special mention: Sai, sir Ronald, sir Eric, and Don) during the race. Huge thanks to Don, who took care of me in the 70km aid station, by prepping a sandwich, refilling my water bottle, wiping my legs and face with a cold wet towel to relieve me from the heat, and for the pep talk when I was at the brink of quitting. Thank you, Del, for pacing with me and for giving me that extra push that I needed during the last stretch.

I was expecting an emotional finish. I expected that I would cry at the finish line but surprisingly, I didn't. Instead, I found myself asking for medics because the pain in my ankle was almost unbearable. No tears, nothing. I didn't cry until the next day when I was chatting with one of my running idols who gave me words of comfort and motivation. That was when all my emotions poured out and I was bawling over at the breakfast table at home. I remembered how I felt as I was approaching the finish line: physical pain, panic, exhaustion, desperation, disappointment, and then finally, relief. It was so overwhelming to feel all those emotions at once. I guess I don't need to explain the physical pain and exhaustion... Panic and desperation for wanting to finish before the cut-off, and disappointment because of my finish time. And then relief that the ordeal was over. 

I had a lot of what-ifs. What if I didn't pee twice during the entire race? What if I didn't take too long with the drop-bag mishap? What if I didn't get lost? What if I didn't sit down to rest at the second U-turn? What if... But enough of that. In the end, I am just thankful to have finished the race safely. I am thankful for the experience and for the lessons that it taught me along the way, which are worth waayyy more than any medal or trophy than the running world has to offer.

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