Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Race Recap: Caliraya 360 34km (September 15, 2013)

Caliraya 360 run course map

Before anything else, I would like to mention that this race was a race I had no plans of joining.  For one thing, nobody wanted to do it with me, so it was that harder to go to an out of town race by myself.  Then, the race organizers offered shuttle buses to the starting line, which was an awesome idea but once I found out that the only venue for the ride was at La Salle Taft, I thought, "Nah!", and forgot about this race.  The race itself wasn't that enticing as I knew how hilly (read: super hard) it can be as I did part of the route with Alvin when we ran the Laguna to Quezon (L2Q) 50km last June 16th.  At that time, we did it because it was my birthday run (I mean what are the odds you can run an Ultra Marathon on your actual birthday? Quite low I am guessing!).  Now, there was no occasion whatsoever to do this race!

And yet here I am right now, sitting in front of my computer and writing on my blog with blog post:  Race Recap - Caliraya 360 34km!

So what changed? 

Well, it is made up of one acronym word and four letters:  RUPM!  Because of this marathon that I am signed up for, I needed to do one big long run a few weeks before this race to make my legs as ready as possible.  With no other half marathon races during this time and being lazy to do a long run by myself, I went to Mizuno BGC to register myself for the 34km event.

Initially, the cut-off time was at 5 hours 45 minutes for the 34km event but upon double-checking with the race organizers, they extended the cut-off time to 7 hours.  Pretty long cut-off so I figured that either way, this was a race I should be able to finish, God willing of course.

I was debating whether or not I should avail of the shuttle services and it took me two days to finally decide that I am going to drive on my own to Lumban, Laguna for the race start. 


I woke up at midnight Sunday am to prepare my gear and eat a little.  I only had two hours sleep then so I was groggy.  And I had to drive two hours to the starting line!  This wasn't turning out to be such a good idea anymore but there was no way I was going to back out from this!

Luckily, it was easy to get to the race site as all I had to do was follow the National Highway until I reach Lumban (after passing the towns of Sta. Cruz and Pagsanjan - ahhh, L2Q memories!).  I got lost a little but it was in Lumban already and I still had an hour to kill so I wasn't worried.  I found the place care of help from some of the Barangay Tanods who directed me to the correct path and I got a good parking spot right across the Plaza, which was where the starting line was. 

I ate two bananas, drank some Gatorade, fixed my gear (Garmin, headlamp) and took 15 minute nap before using the rest room. 

rest rooms were at the left side of this gym

onsite registration for all race categories

I had three goals for this race categorized as: good enough, better, and best.  For good enough it was just to finish the race within the cut-off time of 7 hours.  Better was finishing race at its original cut-off time of 5 hours 45 minutes (10 minute average pace).  Best was beating my RU2 32km pace of 9:30 by finishing race below 5 hours 23 minutes.  But at the back of my mind, I also had an "impossible-but-might-as-well-put-it-there goal of 5 hours, which requires me running an average pace of 8 minutes 47 seconds, on an uphill course!  Hence the "impossible" goal!

The gun start was supposed to be at 4:15am, but due to some problems, we ended up starting the race at 4:30am.  I started at the middle pack and runners at the back slowly all overtook me!  My legs were tight and I regretted not getting a good massage before the race.  Boo!

Starting Line

At 1km, I was already walking!  That was disappointing but I hoped that my legs would loosen later on.  More runners overtook me but I was fine with it.  This wasn't a 10-km race after all. 

1km down, 33km more to go!     

My commitment to myself was that I would pray to God one Our Father, One Glory Be..., and One Hail Mary at least once every kilometer.  This would give me inner strength and it has benefited me recently (I first did it in T2K 50km and I finished strong).  For a runner, it also serves as a gauge if I am running too fast or not (if I had a hard time saying any of the above prayers, then I am going too fast)!  There were times I would pray a lot.  For a Christian, it also reaffirmed my faith in Him and served as my quiet time with God as I would pray about other things as well.  I felt God giving me strength, the Holy Spirit guiding my paths and keeping me strong and it also made my attitude of these long races more uplifting.  I felt blessed that I was given a chance to run this race and looked forward to when my Garmin watch beeped that I had finish another kilometer, because then that would be a sign that it was time for me to pray again.

Elevation map

As seen from the elevation map, it was a lot of uphill climbs for us.  I walked during these times but tried to practice walking fast.  Then, when I felt the road flattening or going down, I would start running again.  It was dark too with certain parts of the road having no street lamps!  Good thing, I had my head lamp with me and there were times that the race organizers would park cars in dark roads and turn on the car lights.

Hydration stations were on every 1.5km or 2km of the course but they were just iced water.  I packed three GU gels with me and hoped this was sufficient.  Unfortunately, between 12-15km, we ran out of water and I had to revert to collecting some ice cubes from the water containers and used that as my water instead.  I regretted not packing my water bottle with me (everyone had their own) and I felt bad that this would cause me to not run the race at the pace that I wanted.  I couldn't even eat my GU gel as there was nothing to wash it down with!  But I continued running and praying, knowing God is there by my side and won't let any harm to befall me.

yay for Gatorade!

And lo and behold, my prayers were answered in this water station as not only were there cold water again but also cold Gatorade.  I drank my fill of Gatorade (two cups full) and water (one cup full) before going off again.  I was filled with renewed energy.  The church was pretty awesome too (though no idea where I was now.. probably Cavinti town?).

More uphill climbs (this never seems to end!), more walking, and more water stations running out of water!!  Thank God weather was perfect with sun hidden from us and a little cold too.  Dark clouds made me go faster as I didn't want to be running when there was a big downpour of rain!  That served as my motivation to keep on going and not walk too much.

I was diligent in my prayers and made sure I didn't miss any of it in any of the kilometers I ran on (if I wasn't sure, I would just pray again as more is better than less!).

As in my T2K 50km race, I didn't look at my Garmin that much.  I wasn't focused on the pace or time but on the distance I had to complete.

I met a girl on 27km mark who asked me the distance and when I told her, she said we could go for 5 hours finish time if we pushed ourselves hard enough.  But then, she also said there was an extra kilometer here, which meant that in order to get this goal, my average pace had to be faster than 8:47 minutes/ km.  I looked at my Garmin and my average was slightly above 9 minute pace, which was pretty good but could I sustain this pace?  Even harder was the question, "Can I go faster?" 

I then vetoed my good, better and best goals and went all out for the "impossible-but-might-as-well-put-it-there" goal of 5 hours.  It would be more difficult given the additional kilometer but I set first at bringing pace down to 8:47.  If (and that is a big If) I brought down average pace to 8:47, then I would just be ecstatic, never mind the fact that I finish more than 5 hours because of the additional kilometer.  I would base it at exactly 34km!

Luckily, we started our descent and I used this chance to pour on the speed and ran all the downhill parts of the course.  I didn't look at my Garmin and I continued to pray diligently to God.  No way was I going to stop praying now!  My Garmin beeped at every kilometer and I saw my average pace go down slightly to below 9.  Then it was 8:56 and it was stuck there. 

At 30km, the road descents got steeper and I ran a 6:45 minute pace (and still able to pray!).  At 31km, I hit 6:53 pace (and surprised that I wasn't tired yet).  At 32km, my Garmin pinged a 6:39 (okay, what is going on?).  I overtook more runners and saw my average pace going down to 8:47- 8:46, which was where I wanted it to be. 

"Just bring it down further", I thought to myself.  I kept going.  At 33km, my pace there was at 6:41!  This seemed extraordinary weird or impossible. 

With only one to two kilometers to go (I wasn't sure how accurate the girl's story was on the additional kilometer), I tried to keep this level of pace as we headed down the road.

At 34km, my lap pace there was at 6:55. I looked at my Garmin and my average pace was now at 8:40- 8:42.  Pretty good but was this enough for a sub-5 finish time?  I had to keep on going.  I had to keep on praying.

I knew I was near the end as the road flattened and there were more parked cars on the road.  So much for the help of gravity.  Now, I had to put more effort for this.  I was running right behind a couple and we zigzagged our way around the local people, the people who finished the race, the marshals, the parked cars, the small road.

And then it was the finish line.  A final sprint with what I had left..



 The last 800 meters of this race were at 6:32 pace!  The total distance was at 34.78km and my average pace had gone down to 8:35 minutes/ km.

Was this enough for a 5 hour finish time?

Apparently, it was more than enough!

My Garmin watch showed a time of 4:58:47.  PRAISE GOD!

Happy runner

My impossible goal turned out to be possible even with an additional 800 meters. Impossible becomes Possible with God by my side.

Caliraya finisher statue next to Rizal statue

Lumban church next to Plaza

I did some stretching, ate and drank some food and drinks that I had in my car, and changed my wet shirt to the finisher shirt.  I visited Lumban Church and said a quick prayer, thanking God for this good race.

As I stepped out of the church, the sun came out and I didn't want to linger any longer.  

altar of Lumban church

  And that was it.  The end of the race. And a long drive home. 

I got home at 1pm and realized I had been awake for more than 12 hours, but I wasn't sleepy.  Blame it on endorphins!



speedy duck said...

Saw your post in FB and as an old friend...you overcame and conquered your fears and yet, despite of it all...you succeeded in the end. GREAT JOB BRO!!!! Wish I have your strength and stamina and do a run with you sometime. Cheers! Dennis Abanto

Anonymous said...


it was good to see you at the 34k! my friends and I tried to catch up with you but you were too fast, so we cheered for you instead. you're one of my running heroes alongside (BR, runnerforchrist and Future Thin Guy). your blog inspired me to run again when I got really sick. Congratulations on the awesome finish! hope to see you again.


Running Fatboy said...

hey Dennis, nice to hear from you. Let's see each other again when you are back in Manila.

hey Carlito, you guys are full of energy! Parang hindi pagod! Haha! Congrats and thanks for the cheer, it gave me strength to keep on going :)

speedy duck said...

Hey buddy! Nice for you to respond back, lol! Never expected that...

Sure thing, but going back for a holiday might be a little tricky next time around. I just got there last August, but was too busy with completing important documents and time just wasn't there for me to even call my friends. I'll tell you what....next time i go back in Manila, let's meet up...just like good ol' times, right!

By the way, here's an idea for a better, more grittier name than running fatboy..."Rampaging Warthog"? Catchy but with a serious message, that you mean business. Like?

Catch you in the flip side bro, Cheers!

daytripper1021 said...

Congrats Dennis! All the best at RUPM!

Herbert V. Puyat said...

Congrats Sir!!