July 15, 2011
At 1:30 in the morning of Saturday, July 9, the shrill sound of the telephone awoke me and trail running queen Merlita Dunkin at our hotel room in Dynasty Court Cagayan De Oro.
Wordlessly, we went through our pre-race rituals – shower, final check on our running gear and anti-blister kits. We made sure our pockets were filled with gels, salts and candies for the 55 kilometer trek. Unlike the two ultramarathons in Cebu, we were on our own in Cagayan De Oro with neither support crew nor the ever- reliable Ungo Runners aid stations.
At the hotel lobby we met up with runners from outside CDO – secretly checking out the competition in the female category and it looked like aside from Helen Tacling (runner-up in the TNF 100 in Camarines Sur last May) and Michelle Estuar (fitness coach and winner of the 1st Cebu Ultramarathon 50K) Merlita had no other competition.
|Photo credit: Bro. Carlo Bacalla, SDB|
Circle Productions, organizer of Mindanao’s first ever ultramarathon expected 150 runners. But on the eve of the race, entrants ballooned to 175 runners (58 from Manila, 20 from Cebu and the rest from CDO, Iligan, Bukidnon, Davao and Zamboanga) – a huge turnout by ultramarathon standards.
Runners gathered in front of the Cagayan De Oro City Hall and at 3:12 in the morning the starting gun was fired as fireworks lit the sky.
|Photo Credit: A Runner's Circle Ph|
As the race progressed, my candies and power gels started to run out, but I didn’t have to worry about nutrition and hydration. In every barangay we passed locals provided boiled camote, cassava, eggs, bananas, yellow corn, salt and water. This was in addition to the official aid stations provided by the race organizers every five (5) kilometers. Runners were also treated to bottomless pineapple juice, L-Carnitine drinks, pinapple and mixed fruits at the Del Monte plantation where aid stations were set up every two (2) kilometers).
|Left Photo by Margie Velasquez (Frontrunner's Jonel Mendoza). Top photo courtesy of A runner's Circle Ph (Ultrarunner and Triathlete Michelle Estuar)|
|With BDM classmate Chito Carreon photo by Margie Velasquez|
In the end I finished in 9 hours 49 minutes while Merlita Dunkin finished in 6 hours 38 minutes placing second to Helen Tacling who finished in 6 hours 36 minutes. Michelle Estuar finished third in 6 hours and 49 minutes.
As for the men’s side, all the top three podium finishers were from Iligan. The best finish by a runner from Cebu was courtesy of Paul James Zafico of the People Support Black Panthers who placed fifth and finished the race in 5 hours 7 minutes. All finishers got a medal, commemorative jacket, finisher’s certificate, lunch and a free ride on Asia’s longest dual zipline spanning 850 meters.
The Cagayan de Oro-Dahilayan 55K Trail Ultramarathon is probably one of the best ultramarathons in the country I’ve run so far and I wish there were more Cebuano runners who experienced it.
I’ve been schooled in the Baldrunner school of ultramarathoning where pain and suffering seem to be the order of the day. But after Dahilayan I learned that an ultra distance can also be as fun as a regular fun run making it the perfect race for ultra virgins and veterans alike. There will be a second edition next year. Try not to miss it.