Albay road-goating: The day god tried (and failed) to burn me alive

A short note: all photos here are owned by Rico Manallo and taken from the official album of Mayon 360 Albay Ultramarathon. 

First the backstory. Sometime in April I attempted to run my first trail ultra–it turned out to be a massive failure. Haha! I stopped at KM 32 thinking I’m past the cut-off time for the “halfway” checkpoint and there’s no way they’d let me continue after the dropbag station.

Can you believe my frustration? My adobo was waiting right there in the magical dropbag, but I never got to eat it.

Around 6:30 AM past Rangyas Peak. Photo by Nik Jamisola.

I spent two nights regretting that decision and looking for other races within the next two months for a chance to just fucking redeem myself. Ang weak ko, putang ina.

There was only one requirement: road or trail, it can’t be shorter. I scoured the running sites and looked at calendars, then lo and behold Mayon 360–80 kilometers on road / asphalt around country’s biggest, hottest cone.

Registration closed. Hijo de puta. 

The long and short of it is that I begged the race organizers for a slot even if they already have a starting list. Like ATE KUYA PLS-levels.

And off I went this wonderful place hoping to just wing the remaining 30-kilometers. Warning: do not try this at home. If you say you’re ready for 50-kilometers, do not go 50-miles.

BRB dying.

This is me at KM 72-ish. During that time, I’ve probably lost what remains of my body fat. I was teary-eyed in pain, burned, and I just wanted to book an Uber to my hotel and take a cold shower. And in my head, I just tried to say “katumabas na lang to ng limang ikot sa acad oval, minus the taho.” Minor set-back: walang Uber. Haha! I spent the last two hours of the race just walking, savoring the agony.

You know what’s amazing? A dog with a bib outran me. No shit. The furry boy finished with his human at approximately 13 hours, while I clocked in at 14+.

There’s only one explanation for this: he’s got better shoes!!! LOL!

I thought carefully how people managed to smile after KM 55. The road past Ligao was sweltering and although there was a bit of rain at Tabaco City, it only brought a short reprieve. Then an awful lot of blisters. Ouch.

Hindi ito pa-cute na ouch ha. Tangina, masakit talaga, nababalatan ka na ng buhay eh. 

My goal was to finish while the sun was still up. It didn’t happen. One aid station offered watermelons so I stayed there for a good 10 minutes chatting up the volunteers and munching slice after slice. I had to do more of those extended stops. It was too much. Haha! Kudos to the race organizers and the RD for sticking to their promise of having aid stations every five kilometers. I seriously doubt if I’d be able to finish if I had to be entirely self-sufficient.

It was about 6 PM when I got back to Penaranda Park aided and paced by this nice runner from Ateneo de Naga (I forget his name, but thanks brotha!).

My first 50-miler in summary: 14+ hours of running, 5 really gross blisters, one dead toenail, approx. 30 square inches of burned, peeling skin, 8 energy gels, three eggs, 8 bananas,1 Fita, 1 pack of Growers spicy peanuts, 2 packs M&Ms. And–


Jjampong.

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“Do I really need a titanium spork?” and other poor-ish hiker problems

Why am I writing this? First, because there are days when I’d ogle at the ultralight, super-expensive gear of my group mates and wonder when I’d be able to afford those things. I borrowed a 1P Nemo Hornet and didn’t want to give it back. Haha! This brings me to #2: I’m perpetually on a budget, I cannot go gear shopping one day and just burn USD 500 for a tent. Whatever I have right now, I bought one by one by one.  So, this is for the people who are like me. LOL.

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I started this madness with an entry-level pair of Merrells bought after a spontaneous first hike chronicled here. Entry-level, yes, but I still didn’t find it cheap. That was Php 3,000+ on a pair of shoes I didn’t think I would use for the next two years.

Then I bought a pack (because it was Christmas and I just got my bonus haha), a Deuter Futura Pro 34 SL (at a sale price of about Php 4,000) as advised by that guy from Basekamp—he was dark and he looked toasted from all the hiking, ergo credible, so I followed his advice. I still use that pack until now. It has gone through multi-day hikes, tons of weather and trail abuse, but it’s showing no signs of falling apart.

Despite the ignorance from my early day-hiking days, I actually did one thing right: to buy two of the most important things needed by those new to the sport.

AND YES, mga bes, I am and would always be new to the sport. So learn with me.

Proper shoes and a proper pack, that’s all you need—in the meantime and because gear is expensive. I intend to list down the things you’ll have to beg, borrow, and buy as you progress, but let’s put it in categories first: 1. personal, 2. group equipment.

Also, this post is just part one and it talks about personal equipment. Buy them first, one by one

  • Shoes. There I said it. Each person would have his / her preference—high-, low-, mid-cut, level of protection, weight, aggressiveness of the lugs, etc. I say, choose what you want to compromise. I’ve maintained a taste for light and low-cut shoes because I want agility better than protection. Now, I use a Salomon S-Lab Sense for both hiking and trail running and I’m pretty darn happy with them. Truth, this shit is expensive, I sacrificed three weeks of gas- and beer- money for it. LOL.
Lugs, baby.

Other notes: Buy shoes at the end of the day, when your feet have already “expanded.” Try them out with socks, make sure your heel is in place and your toes are not jamming the toe box. I don’t want patay na kuko, they make me feel ugly. Lol.

  • Pack. Find the best fit. Try it out, make adjustments (hip, shoulder, sternum), walk around ROX to get a good feel of it. Wrong pack = nagmumurang shoulders = motherfucking upper body strain = very bad case of DOMS = VL = career going downhill. Haha. No seriously, spare your shoulders and let the hips do the work.

As for the size, mine is 34L+10. The longest I’ve gone with it is 4 days, 3 nights with personal and group equipment–and yes, including a tent. Just learn how to pack nicely.

  • Headlamp. My cheap TrueValue-bought Energizer headlamp works wonders. By cheap, I mean PHP 500 at 150 lumens, and it survived three days of rain in Kibungan, 4 days in Compostela Valley and about 5 trail races. But if you have money to buy those precious Black Diamond lamps, then by all means—pahiram and light up the trails with 300 lumens. If you are the type who does extended ‘day-hikes’ then this would come in handy.

Don’t rely on your phone’s flashlight, because my god, you need your phone to make calls in case shit hits the fan.

  • Sleeping bag, sleeping pad, malong. Nobody wants to sleep with you. Get your own “bed.” In truth, I never bothered to buy a sleeping pad, because my sleep system is uber simple.

Thermarest + malong / SOL bivvy / sleeping bag / liner? It depends, really.

Left to right. REI Vapor Black Travel Sack, temp rating of 13 degrees celsius, SOL Escape Bivvy, and malong. By sheer pack size, my favorite is the malong.

I would usually bring just one of these items to cut the weight and bulk. When I went to Pulag though, it was a (borrowed) pad + SOL Bivvy (USD 60). Okay na pag makapal ang balat. Besides, there are some nights when I don’t even reach the tent because of drunkenness.

When in doubt, check the temperature rating. 😀

  • Mess kit and knife. When I was a BMC trainee, I just use Lock&Lock. Then somebody gave me a generic collapsible bowl. Another person gave me a collapsible cup. That was it. And an aluminum spork from Basekamp that was just about PHP 175. My knife is hand-me-down Humvee.

Yung totoo, do you really need a titanium spork at the moment?

  • Water container / bottle. Bladder or a trusty Nalgene bottle. Useless note: I don’t use a bladder. It’s so hard to refill, so hard to gauge consumption. To date, I use a 400-ml Nalgene + 2 160 ml squeeze bottles that fit in my side pocket (sometimes, a 330 ml Gatorade)

And a 750 ml aluminum bottle for the alcohol! Hahaha!

  • First aid. Loperamide, mga bes, hahaha! In addition to the usual wound care shit like cotton, antiseptic wipes, povidone iodine (Betadine), gauze + bandage + dressing. In our BFA class, we were taught to use a triangular bandage, so it’s now my weapon of choice. Paracetamol, Ibuprofen, oral rehydration salts, anti-histamine, etc.

Bring your personal meds and leave the c-splints and scalpels to the team medic. Haha!

  • Others. Groundsheet, toiletries (please don’t bring a whole bottle of lotion), whistle, poncho, and well, clothes (remember cotton = death cloth, use synthetics, dri fit). And extra underwear, because wet brip x wet bra = miserable.
Cold weather clothing. Columbia packable shell, base layer, Uniqlo UL down, and Uniqlo fleece. The most expensive one is the shell at about Php 4,000, but I’m sure that’s with a hefty mark up.

So that’s that for personal equipment. I’ll write another post for group equipment soon (stoves, tents, etc.) and another one for UL with the help of Pops (Cecile Morella) but I’ll leave you with this:

My swim coach, Noy Basa, once said, you don’t have to buy the best, lightest equipment to drastically improve your (triathlon) time. Upgrade the athlete before the gear.

Same goes for us. Upgrade the mountaineer before the gear. Cheers!

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