Four Lakes 100km Race Day

Written on May 27th. Unfortunately I had some technical difficulties (the ipod touch that I wrote this on decided to die for a week before coming back to life) so this is way late. I’m so glad I recovered it though, and apologize for the length! What an experience!

Keith and I headed to bed right after supper in order to get as much sleep as possible. With a 2:30am wake up time, I had a little trouble getting to sleep, but luckily the house was relatively quiet (which was incredible considering we counted between 40-50 people staying at our home stay – bodies everywhere!). In the morning I bopped around eating my breakfast, drinking coffee and getting ready. Keith kept telling me to save my energy, but I was just so excited!

At 4am exactly the race began! Everyone had their headlamps and headed out up the first 8km climb as a group. Of course it spread out pretty quickly but it was cool to look back and see the long string of headlamps lighting up the trail below me. I chatted here and there, ran/hiked some by myself and generally just tried to keep it easy. Even though on a training run I might have run this whole section, I didn’t want to blow out the tank early.

And we're off! First time racing with a head lamp.

And we’re off! First time racing with a head lamp.

The sunrise was beautiful, and worth the early start. There was also a sea of clouds that we were above which was neat.

Keith was riding with RD Jonel for the day and we had decided that I wouldn’t depend on him for anything. I had three drop bags stocked and also carried food, my headlamp, a long sleeve shirt and water purification droplets.

The highest point on the course was Mount Ugo’s summit which was at 22km. After the initial 8ish km climb there was some ridge running, a short descent and then a long climb. It was apparent on the steep part of the climb (which was similar grade to the hiking I do at home) that the time I’ve spent in the mountains was going to pay off. I passed a few people who were suffering from the altitude (2000+m) and steepness.

I paused only for a second at the summit to take in the view (although don’t worry, there were great views the whole race that I took in while moving) before embarking on an 11km down hill. I actually didn’t realize at the time that it was 13km which which was a good thing…that is a freaking long time to descend! Just down from the summit I was chasing (by accident!) a few cows when someone yelled from behind “look out for the cow!”. I guess one got behind me and was racing to catch up to his buddies. I jumped off the trail and took it as an indication of more livestock encounters to come.

I will be honest, this descent hurt. There were some easyish sections but much of it was steep, rocky and technical. I spent quite a while being down on myself before realizing that that was a waste of thoughts. So I repeated “just glide down the hill” over and over again.

When I finally reached the checkpoint at 35km (and our first drop bag) my left IT band was in serious trouble. I had a bunch of food and Gatorade and did some stretching in hopes of loosening it up. I was worried that it would challenge me for the rest of the race (and I was right). I also applied a bunch if body glide on my feet as I had blisters popping up galore. I guess that’s the joy of running in the heat: my feet expand.

I set out for what past participants said was the toughest climb, aptly named Amelong Lebang (Amelooooooooong). It was steep and I was moving slowly. Even though my legs were grateful for a climb, I’d eaten too much and my tummy was struggling to digest everything and put it to use. I was thankful when Jim, a Malasian participant caught up to me, and then we caught up to Malcolm, a UK participant and we spent most of the rest of the climb keeping each other company.

Just before the top, Malcolm and Jim went ahead leaving me to start descending on my own. It rained just a tiny bit, but the thunder started up. I knew it wouldn’t be long until we were in the rain. Another participant, Jojo caught up and after chatting a bit he mentioned he was out of water. I was only to happy to hand him a bottle of gatorade that I’d been carrying since 35km that I didn’t have the stomach for. I still had at least a litre in my hydration pack so I knew I’d be fine. He was very grateful making it more than worthwhile!

At km 49 with Jojo- a new friend. I look exhausted! Too bad I have 51 km in the rain left!

At km 49 with Jojo- a new friend. I look exhausted! Too bad I have 51 km in the rain left!

Just before I hit 49km I was descending and felt a sharp pain in my heel causing me to cry out and immediately sit down to check what happened. Turns out a blister on the side of my heel about the size of a toonie that I’d seen and tried to pop at 35km with no luck had burst. While I’ve had my share of blisters, this was a new spot, and I’d never had them pop while running before. I limped the last km before the aid station and lucky for me (but unlucky for him since I was grumpy) Keith was there! He fixed me up with the first aid kit and some mole skin and I was off again. He decided he wanted some exercise and would hike the 7km to the next aid station as well. Since the portion started with a climb he got ahead of me right away and I would only pass him later on some of the downhill (we had decided not to go together since pacers are not allowed).

Almost immediately on this leg it started raining. The rain would end up lasting almost 6 hours and would wreak havoc with the trail. On this portion alone there was one descent that was almost impossible. The trail was a mudslide but stepping off the trail you ran the risk of rolling your ankle in holes hidden by thick grass. I went down on my hands and bum for part of it but it was slow going. When I got to the bottom a water buffalo decided I wasn’t going to pass him and gave me a short chase until I conceded to taking a detour around him to the delight of some nearby farming children (they couldnt stop laughing as I made my way around).

The rain begins! This is about km 50. Little did I know what I was in for in the second half.

The rain begins! This is about km 50. Little did I know what I was in for in the second half.

When I reached the next check point at 56km I was more than soaked through but was still warm (thank you Canadian blood! I think I may have been the only participant still warm). The next part was a 26km out and back and I knew that it would get dark before I was back. I decided to change into my capris and throw a long sleeve shirt on before heading out with full food and water from my drop bags.

This is where I managed to make a little math error. For some reason I thought there was only 34km left, not 44km so in my head I kept thinking “when I get to the next check point after 13km, I’ll only have a half marathon left!”. I was in third for women so decided to make up some time with the attitude that I would run where I knew others would be walking. I felt great! And I think I was moving pretty quickly because when I ran into the front guys on their way back they all commented that I must he feeling good.

This portion seemed to never end though, and I hit a low point when I ran into friends that said I still had about 40 minutes to go. I couldn’t believe it and was visibly upset. One of the guys said “You can do it, this is what you signed up for” and it was the biggest wake up call. My attitude started to change immediately. This was at a point that the trail turned from undulating but mostly runable hills to steep dangerous climbs on the side of cliffs. Although I was racing against the dusk, I was glad that I got to go one way in the light so that I could survey this tough portion.

The trails were thin and rocky and had basically turned into rivers. There were mudslides all but covering the trail at some points and at others mudslides starting from the trail had eaten away part of it. I have so much respect for the runners who did this all in the dark.

I finally rolled into the aid station and my hard work was rewarded. In 13 km I had cut down the top two girls leads from about 40 minutes to 10-15 at max. I took the time to have a bite and some coffee before heading out again. By this time I knew that my math had been wrong but was motivated to catch the front ladies!

I love the quality of this how rainy/mucky it is!

I love the quality of this photo…shoes how rainy/mucky it is!

By this time it was dark so I got out my headlamp. I was extra careful to stay focused onto trail because of how technical it was. I think it was still raining on and off but I was still nice and warm. About halfway through this section I caught the girl in second. It was nice to chat for a while and to run together. She was smart and had a second flashlight which lit up the trail way better. After a while I pushed on as I was back in the runable terrain and feeling strong.

WARNING: Rookie mistake alert.

About 2-3km from the check point I came across a guy who’s headlamp was very dim. He was pretty worried and asked if I had extra batteries. I had four (my lamp takes 3). I was unsure of what to do. I didn’t want to leave him, but I knew I might need some batteries later on. A quick decision lead to me giving him 2/4 of my spares. He was very grateful so I felt good and pushed on. When I arrived at the aid station I was feeling awesome, determined to catch the girl in first in the last 18km (which at this point felt down right short!). Keith had surprised me by saving some sour cream and onion chips, which I devoured before refilling water and snacks, taking off my long sleeve and hitting the trail.

The first 3km were a pretty easy dirt road (easy is relative, it was still a mudslide mess). Unfortunately I made a wrong turn and did about an extra 1km trying to find the trail which dampened my spirits a little.

My headlamp was beginning to fade so I swapped in my two remaining spare batteries before entering a 7km climb through a portion called the mossy forest. It helped a little but not a lot as it was misty which frustratingly obscured my sight like crazy.

You can see the rain drops! I changed to dry clothes at this aid station...a lot of good that did.

You can see the rain drops! I changed to dry clothes at this aid station…a lot of good that did.

The mossy forest was downright creepy. It was totally dark with the moon obscured by clouds. The lush undergrowth was almost up to my waist and there were tons of trees hanging down with their wet leaves hitting me in the face. The ribbons flagging the trail were few (or at least I couldn’t see them) and although I couldn’t see it because of the growth, I could tell there was a cliff not far to my left. As my headlamp got less and less strong I started singing “My Favorite Things” in my head. I was feeling scared but knew there was not much point in stopping to wait for someone or freaking out. I just needed to keep going, the faster I went, the sooner it would be over. It occurred to me that I was thankful that there were no bears or cougars like at home that could eat me, just blood sucking leeches.

I hadn’t run more than 10m after leaving the mossy forest when my headlamp died. I fiddled with the batteries for a few minutes before resigning myself to th fact that it was gone. The one good thing was that the final 8km descent was that it was the same as the first 8km of the race and the same trail that Keith and I had hiked. On top of that the sky was beginning to clear so there was a little moonlight shining through.

Since about 56km I’d been planning on flying down this descent. I figured since it was the end that I may a well drain the tank completely. But because of my light situation, I had to change my plan. Because of the rain, the trail was slippery and there were many sections that were covered in water. I decided that going slow was a better alternative to cracking my head open or falling off a cliff, so I power hiked down. I was more than a little disappointed not to be running but once again knew that it was a waste of energy to dwell on the negative emotion. I just moved as fast as I could, reliving the high points of the race and hoping that Keith had been able to get a ride to the finish. When I got to the pavement with about a km left I ran in and was glad to be done.

Jonel and his wife, along with Keith and a few of the top men met me with cheers. I was a tangle of emotion and was pretty quiet at first trying to process. Jonel handed me my (totally awesome!) king of the mountain trophy and finishers medal. We took a photo at the finish line and I gushed about what an amazing course it was. What woke me up the most though was Jonel’s exclamation of “Look at your Leg!”. My right compression sock was drenched in blood!

Jonel and I...I am an official finisher!

Jonel and I…I am an official finisher!

While I’d been checking for leeches the whole race, and purposely covered my whole legs for the dark part using compression socks and capris, the leeches in the mossy forest had sucked me right through my sock! There was even a massive blood filled one still attached, to everyone’s glee. Leeches release a coagulating factor when they let go, but it doesn’t stop the bleeding, it just makes the blood running down your leg super thick and goopy. We peeled the socks off to find four leech bites. My blood joined the multicultural pool that was already at the line, there was Japanese, Philippino and now Canadian blood foot prints.

I waited to congratulate the next couple runners before heading up to wash up, a process made difficult by the leeches. In our room while waiting for them to stop bleeding (and having to wipe blood every 30 seconds – you aren’t supposed to cover them) I got cold, then nauseous, then hungry, at which point Keith took over blood patrol so I could lie down. Finally after about an hour (it was almost 3am) we decided just to cover them with gauze and a tensor bandage and go to sleep. This worked although by morning they were still bleeding and had bled through everything (finally 48 hours later they clotted – yuck).

In the morning I traded stories with other racers and went down to the finish to cheer on the last few runners before the cut off. It was finally setting in that I’d completed my first 100km!!! It was fun sharing stories, chatting about other’s experiences and thanking everyone for the encouragement along the way. I was tired and sore, but elated. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

The course was extremely tough, but generally well marked. There was a variety of types of trail, barely any overlap and the aid stations were well equipped and had friendly volunteers. The prizes were so neat (bonus) but the pride of finishing was even better. As we packed up to head back to Baguio, we were feeling sad. I’m so glad that we decided to come to the race. Kayapa is an experience we would never have had without it, and running 100kms is a great way to see lots of the local trails! While I’m not sure I can go next year, like the 15 other internationals who were there, I know I’ll be back some day!

– The playlist in my head (I didn’t wear an ipod) consisted of Michael Franti’s “I’m Alive” for about 12 hours, Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” for about 3 hours, The Sound of Music’s “My Favourite Things” for about 1 hour, and a mish mash of mantra’s for the rest.
– I will always put extra batteries in drop bags from now on…and I suggest everyone reading this learns from my mistake!
– I peed 74,000 times throughout the race – the equivalent of all the rain that fell (haha, just kidding – sort of).

I have SO many people to thank, but I will keep it brief. Jonel was the most helpful, welcoming and friendly race director ever. I can’t wait to do another race put on by him (hopefully someday!). The Baltazars were incredibly helpful, and supportive and we felt like part of the family by the time we left. ALL the participants who greeted me by name, cheered me on and shared their country with me…THANK YOU. The Philippino people are undoubtedly the friendliest people in the world in my books. Everyone at home who sent encouragement – I could feel you out there with me on race day. And finally, without Keith’s support and encouragement I would never have made it to the start line. Not only does he put up with all my training, but he willingly re-routed our trip to fit in the race, put up with my nerves all week, got as little sleep as I did AND volunteered on the course! (The participants have him to thank for their drop bags making it to #1 and #2!). And he listened to me recount every moment from the race at least three times. He is just the greatest, and I am so dang lucky.

With my biggest supporter! He was with me in spirit every step of the way:)

With my biggest supporter! He was with me in spirit every step of the way:)

11 thoughts on “Four Lakes 100km Race Day

  1. This is AMAZING JILL!!! I want to run out and do one now…without leeches though!!!! Haha!! You’re the best!! WOW!!!

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  4. Gosh this was such a lovely read… got a little emotional reading it! You did a wonderful job and even though you made a ‘rookie mistake’ you did it out of kindness and I’m sure he appreciated it a lot. Nice job πŸ™‚

    • Hi Lucy, thats one of the nicest things I’ve been told! Not that I’m glad you got emotional πŸ˜‰ but I’m happy that someone could connect with my writing on an emotional level! I can’t wait to check out your blog!

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