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I Ran With A Monster

Barely one month ago (January 28-29 2012), I had an incredible chance to personally witness the battle between the less than 100 courageous Ultramarathoners on their way from Mariveles, Bataan to Capas, Tarlac. Together with some members of the Six:30 Running Group (Hendy, Allan, Imee, Jenny), we were set to support our co-teammate Ronnel Go "Kampuger" (also a co-member at Team Ungas) in his quest for the 2nd BDM 160's Silver buckle.

A day before the long-awaited event though, I have to be transferred as a Support crew and Pacer to another teammate from Team Ungas - Graciano Santos, more commonly known as "Totoy" (Alamat ng Samat) who only have but one Support crew (Joen Soriao also from Team Ungas) and a Driver (Mang Nando - Kuya Totoy's long-time Friend). Since I don't know how Kuya Totoy wants to carry out his race and support plan, I was feeling nervous -- afraid that I might not be able to take good care of him during the race, or won't be an effective support crew specially that it is my first time to be such. For Kampuger, we have already planned ahead about it and took note some of those things a week before.

Team Kampuger
We arrived at km.0 around 3:30 in the wee hours, the air still filling-up with some morning dew coupled with the cold breeze of Mariveles. There were already some runners waiting for the assembly, and in just a few minutes more, the area was already busy with the runners and their own support members. After a while, I've finally met Kuya Totoy, Joen and Mang Nando who has also been his driver since his first BDM. I asked them how are we going to carry out the logistical support during the race, and they told me to just give Kuya Totoy what he would require since the logistics are already complete at the van. It was advantageous for me as I wouldn't be memorizing a set of "guide to Ultramarathon support 101".

There was only a short program to start off the race, it was solemn at the same time with fear and excitements lashing through the atmosphere. A prayer was offered for the fallen heroes, the success of the event, and for the runners' safety as well. The American, Filipino, and Japanese National anthems were vigorously sung before the gun-start was fired at 5AM.

Mang Nando and Joen at Km. 7
Our first support station was at kilometer 7, the same initial support stop for Kampuger. Since the route was all uphill, we've thought that Kuya Totoy would reserve his pace and only arrive around 45 minutes after. But lo, four of them (Juny Rex Carreon, Kuya Totoy, and two other runners) arrived at the 7th kilometer at just between 35-37 minutes. Them monsters arrived early at a speed that is only my 10k race pace on a flat road.

Next stop was at intervals of every 2 to 3 kilometers and sometimes every 1 to 1.5 kilometers depending on how Kuya Totoy feels his need to re-fuel. On most of these support stops, he would only linger for around 30 to 180 seconds maximum. There's really no wasted time for him for leisure stops. At times, he would also let us proceed to the next kilometer station when he still doesn't need anything. Once in a while, his legs would cramp out and when he needed a muscle rub (pronounced "masa rap"), Joen would not hesitate to massage Kuya Totoy's legs and Kuya Totoy's... (*wink). In the middle of the day, the absence of the sun's heat and the slight drizzle kept the surroundings and the runners temperature down.

Joen applying muscle rub
Boiled egg, bread, soft cookies, iodized salt/salt capsules, water, soft drinks, sports and energy drinks - these are what comprises his meal and fuel for the entire day. For lunch, he just ate half rice and a piece of Jollibee's burger steak. The small amount of food he's taking in made me wonder if it could sustain him longer, at the same time, I know for sure that eating for fulfillment would just make him bloat and make it hard for him to run. The energy drinks and flavored-coffee in-can were only consumed in the late afternoon and in the evening to keep himself awake. His dinner was just a bite of barbeque while we were in between kilometers 99 to 100.

At km. 102 checkpoint, most of the runners and support crews stopped to take some moment to relax, take photos, greet other fellow participants and re-charge. I was thinking that Kuya Totoy would also take some 15-30 minutes break to regain his strength and take a power nap. But as soon as he changed his clothes and shoes, off he zoomed-out towards the route. Nagmamadali! I haven't even noticed if he ate some food, what we all know is that he almost got lost because he was hurrying and forgot that he should turn right towards the main road.

The highlight of Kuya Totoy's struggle came not until he reached around the 108th kilometer where he started feeling weak and struggling to keep himself awake. The blister pains on his foot also has already put him on one of his greatest pain. At this time, he no longer took any of the caffeinated drinks as he might get irregular palpitations due to the combined stress and fatigue on his body as well as on his mind. At kilometer 109, we decided to start pacing him after all of us finished munching our dinner along the side of McArthur Highway in San Fernando, Pampanga.

The plan was for me and Joen to alternately pace Kuya Totoy every 10 kilometers until we reach the finish line between 3 to 5AM. I got the first turn and we first walked along McArthur Highway while giving ourselves time to digest our dinner. Along the way, just to keep ourselves busy, we talked about random topics from technology, events, rumors, and ladies? I can't remember that last subject. But despite those stories to keep us awake, the food and coffee that Kuya Totoy has to consume, his energy just kept on going down to zero. I adviced him a couple times to take a 5 or 10-minutes nap just for him to regain some of his strength but he refuses as he might fall asleep longer and concerned that his body might cool down and lost its momentum.

At one of those long roads with lots of blinking lights and ladies on a "swimsuit" (in the middle of the night?) popping-out on the establishments' entrance door, we stopped at a balut vendor to give ourselves some quick protein fill. But since Kuya Totoy is still feeling sleepy, Joen and Mang Nando decided to have a short coffee-break at a mini-24hours convenience store. After a good 10 minutes break, off we go again for another journey of Kuya Totoy's battle with the blister pains, tired legs and muscles, sleep-headedness and the never-ending boring distance.

Then finally, while we were in the middle of crossing at a junction road, Kuya Totoy just suddenly stopped, bent and holding down his knees, closed his eyes, and words came out from his mouth: "inaantok na talaga ako!" Immediately I grabbed him towards the sidewalk, assisted him at a Jollibee building's post and told him to take his power-nap while I lookout for him. The street was so noisy with roaring trucks but all of those noise was a haze to Kuya Totoy as his eyes voluntarily and forcibly closed making his head vow down to exhaustion. When our support van arrived, Kuya Totoy tried to get his head up but his sleepiness can't help him get up so he continued to fall asleep. Checking at my watch, we already covered 16km for more than 3 hours of walking the entire distance. I then also took a nap inside the van while Joen looks out for Kuya Totoy at the Jollibee post.

When I woke up, Joen already took his turn to pace Kuya Totoy and they were already covering the distance. It was again my turn to support and I just realized that it was more hectic this time since there're now two runners that I have to be concerned of and only one of me as a support crew. But Mang Nando who still haven't slept since the gun-start also helped me in helping Kuya Totoy and Joen. I asked Mang Nando if he hasn't felt sleepy yet and he said he would sometimes try to take a nap but his worry for his friend Kuya Totoy won't make him fall asleep. He's taking great concern that at Kuya Totoy's performance, he might still be running until the mid-day of Sunday. He was also somewhat mad that Kuya Totoy has already spent most of his energy during the Taklang Damulag event a few weeks before this BDM race.

After Kuya Totoy and Joen covered another 10km distance at km.135, I asked Joen that I would like to take my turn to pace but Joen, still full with energy insisted to still extend a few more distance. Next stop was at km.137 in Bamban where Kuya Totoy have to change shoes and re-check his burning blisters on his foot. I was surprised at his toes seeing it already turned white. I can't imagine how painful it was! Good thing is I have with me a strapping bandage, bad thing is, I don't know the proper way to apply it on blistered toes, most especially to someone else's foot. But then we have to minimize the pain and further damage on his blisters so I bandaged it while thinking about the principle behind the saying "to put yourself on someone else's shoe"! Well, that was really helpful ;)

23 kilometers remaining and the time was already past 4AM. Kuya Totoy's finish during his BDM160 debut was only 22:07:30 hours while this time we are already going more than 24 hours. Gladly, his energy and determination came back and his adrenalin was like re-fueled from the start. He asked us how many have passed him since he fell asleep at the sidewalk, and to our estimate, he was already at the 25th place. He straightfully said he would catch up to them and although it was already my turn to pace him, he decided that he would lead the pace. I was not hesitant as I know he wouldn't be able to run faster than my fast pace as he still hasn't fully recovered all his strength yet after the more than 23 hours of never-ending run that he already did. But then I was wrong! He was like a "Super-Saiyan" who got defeated and took a seed of magic beans.

The first runner that we came to was partners KB and Mish who strongly passed by from us at km.137. I thought Kuya Totoy would just keep his pace constant, but as we passed through KB's way, he sprinted out as if he has just ran to a gun-start from hell! And then he would quietly smile knowing that he was able to get back a few hundred meter distance. This same strategy of his kept on as we pass-by other runners. He was just like playing tag! I got tired and exhausted just by pacing Kuya Totoy who already ran more than 80% of the total BDM160 distance while I was only running with him for the last 23km. As we reached the gate of Camp O'Donnell, it was really inviting to turn left and take the cut for finish line, but there was still 10km remaining which was more challenging as the route was uphill - a 5km up, and the same 5km down before finally turning right at the gate towards the finish line at the BDM tower. The ascending route was still no exception for Kuya Totoy as he would still turn berserk with interval sprinting whenever he feels like it. The pacing duty became an unexpected LSD/speed/interval training for me (the only training I had for my Mt. Ugo PSA Akyathlon). So when we finally reached Camp O'Donnell's gate towards the monument, all the hard efforts that we did already took a toll on me. Both my legs cramped a few meters ahead of the flagpole. Seeing Kuya Totoy still have some energy to spend, I told him to just go ahead and so he sprinted the remaining distance towards the finish line while I stayed at the side limped-walking my way for a good rest. What kind of monster he is!

With the turn of this BDM160 event, the cruel distance, the suffering and struggles of the participants, my mind closed the idea of joining a crazy Ultramarathon distance of 100-miles or not even close to 50-miles. And witnessing the feat of those Warrior runners never even helped to instill some thoughts on me to someday, also, be such a crazy-foolish-brave-idiot to run such distance. I already ran a 50km. (walked and jogged) -- the shortest Ultramarathon distance, but 100-km and beyond? Nah! Just let me be one of your support crew and I'll gladly accept it. So to all the brave Ultramarathon warriors, I salute you! Heads up and Congratulations to everyone!

Team Totoy
Special thanks to Joen for not making it hard for me to learn and for being kind to a noob support crew, to Kampuger and Kuya Totoy for giving me the chance to witness this one-of-a-kind journey in running - Ultrarunning that is, and to Team Ungas - congratulations to each of you who finished or even braved this great race! Hindi ko kayo kayang tularan at hinding-hindi talaga ako gagaya, sapat na sa akin ang maging support crew nyo! =)

Click above photo to view more photos from my Facebook Album


  1. Good job on your support duties. These ultramarathoners are really remarkable and witnessing them struggle through the distance is truly inspiring. Congrats to your whole team and to kuya totoy as well.

  2. Indeed Ai, all hands up to them for their courage, will and determination. Thank you for the remarks and visit Ai.

    You moved your blog pala kaya hindi ko matagpuan lately :)

  3. wow nice experience with the monster. . dinurog ka pala ni ka totoy :) congrats to you, you survived too :)


  4. Hi Gelo, oo durog talaga paa ko sa ginawa nyang pacing.

    Congrats lalo na sa'yo, isa ka nang Ultraman, isang mabilis na uri ng Ultraman =)


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