One of the primary reasons why I decided to complete my first marathon was the lure of joining ultramarathons. I am not "driven by speed" thus when I was training for my first marathon, I avoided tempo and interval training runs as much as I can and "cheated" by replacing them with hill repeats and hill training runs instead. Well, as mentioned in RunnersWorld, training on hills is speedwork in disguise. =D
It was actually the easy long runs that I enjoyed during my trainings. I liked the solitude, the zen-like rhythmic sound of my feet on the road and the calming effect this gave me. As a result, after I finished my first marathon, I looked for ultra races instead of improving my 10k, 21k and 42k personal bests.
The potential opportunity came even before I had finished my first marathon. A week before the TBR Dream Marathon. my good friend Julius, invited me to join him in the Mayon 360 50 miler race. It was scheduled two weeks after the TBR Dream Marathon. I was quite tempted in registering already for this race but eventually decided to wait until I had completed my marathon. It was in the end a wise decision since I incurred injuries in my first marathon which required at least one week of rest. As a result, I had to put my plan of running my first ultra race in the back burner and focus first on healing my injuries.
The next opportunity came in frontRUNNER's Valley Trail Challenge at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. This was scheduled on June 18, roughly three months after my first marathon. My initial thought was perfect, I still had time to prepare and train. There were two challenges though that I needed to face. First, it was a trail run (I didn't have any training on trail routes since there were none where I live) and second, instead of being a 50K race, an additional 7 kilometers were added to the race! I thought, wow, this would be a great painfest for my first ultra! =D
Even with these challenges, I was excited (or crazy perhaps) that when the first day of registration came, I immediately signed-up for the race. To my surprise, I was the second registrant and got this for a bib number (the first registrants, a couple, chose the 100 and 101 numbers). I felt like an elite for a second but became scared shit afterwards because of the implications of the number! haha! =D In the end, I didn't have the number changed since I thought this would be a good symbol for my first ultra.
After putting the race registration out of the way, the next challenge was how to train for this race. Back then, actually I didn't know how to approach my training. All I knew, based on my researches, was to do back-to-back long runs. As a result, you could see this from the samples of my weekly training report below.
On the latter part of my training, I also learned about heat training courtesy of Julius. He accompanied me in a long run with heat training included (see training report below). We started around 2pm and just one and a half hour in the run, I was already burnt crisp and panting like a dog from the heat of the sun and the pavement! That was a rude awakening! That was my first taste on how heat could be a game changer and adversely affect one's performance.
With these preparations, I thought I was ready but boy was I mistaken! Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed my first ultra but I had a lot of lessons learned from heat training (I did not have enough), to hydration (the one 20oz handheld bottle I brought was not enough to carry me to the next hydration station), to the right trail running shoe (I used Vibram FiveFingers Treksport which was not suited to the gravel roads of the route).
Just like what I did in my first marathon, I would let the pictures I took speak for all the emotions I felt when I ran my first ultramarathon. Please excuse some of the crappy pictures since I used my "wet-from-sweat" mobile phone.
The beauty of trail running. You don't see this in your regular road races.
For me, this was the most beautiful part of the route. This area was even called "New Zealand."
Running with Mt. Makiling as your backdrop.
My fellow running comrades and for some, this was also their first ultra.
What lies beyond 42K?
For me, this was the true meaning of trail running. Notice the dirty legs and shoes!
1km away from finishing my first ultramarathon. All thumbs up amidst the sore feet and legs.
After 9 hours and 15 minutes of running bliss!
Simple, straightforward, lotsa fun! This was ultrarunning at its finest!
Ranked 63rd out of 112 runners. Not bad for a first timer! =)
Lastly, I would like to share this great race recap from the main man himself, Race Director and frontRUNNER Magazine Editor, Jonel Mendoza.