Wednesday, July 6, 2011

GRANDMOTHER.. ULTRA TRAIL RUNNER
























Maybe someday, when someone asks my grandchild Enzo, “where’s your lola?” he will proudly say “nasa bundok po, tumatakbo po ng 100K trail run!!!”

ELMA AMBAL – GABRIANA

ultra road and trail marathoner, loving wife, mother of four grownups and recently a grandmother. A devoted runner who strongly believes that proper training, perseverance and courage are virtues that spell success in every competition. She dreams of participating in Ironman Triathlon before becoming a “golden girl”.



I think I already mentioned several times how I love trail runs as much as I love road runs but since trails are rarely offered I take advantage of them. Even if trail has become a trend recently, many runners still dread the thought of running on dirt roads, stepping on rocks, of traversing, terrains, muds, etc. So, I thought of featuring a story of another ultra trail runner to invite more to try it and have fun.

More than encouraging people to try trail runs, I also hope to share the inspiration that my friend, Ate Elma has been giving me.

In my almost two years in the running community, I've encountered many inspiring people and heard of touching stories and this one is definitely one those that stand out.

When people tell me they admire me because of my pace, etc., although I appreciate them a lot and feel humbled, I also tell them that there are lot of factors why I'm able to run that way- I'm relatively young, I haven't given birth therefore has not gained much weight, although I'm busy at work, I don't have as much responsibility as keeping a house so it's easier for me to find time to train. This is just to point out that those who don't have these but still run, regardless of their pace, are more admirable than me.

This is why I really look up to Ate Elma. She may not be as young as me or other runners out there but I bet she's stronger than many of us. Finishing a 100K trail run was not a joke. I think it's one of the toughest challenges any runner could face. Proof of it was the number of those who did not finish the TNF 100 race - young men and women. But she's not just your usual senior runner, she's an ultra runner with a pace that will tire younger ones.

Her determination and commitment inspire me a lot. More than that, I admire her for how she takes care of her husband and her entire family and also of her friends. She's a beautiful soul. I have been gifted with the chance of knowing her and I'd like to share this gift with you.


HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN RUNNING?

My passion for running or if I may say, addiction, started three years ago in 2008 Adidas King of the Road together with my Fitness First (Fort) gym buddies. I ran 10k without thinking and proper training considering that it was my first run. As a result, I tasted my first ever sore quads, leg pains and even blisters as I was not wearing the proper shoes for running. Never even thought “running shoes” existed!


With her loving husband, Kuya Ronnie (Adidas KOTR, 101108)


With her Fitness First friends, minus me ;) (Condura Marathon, 020611)


WHAT GOT YOU INTO RUNNING?

I just got into it and found running beneficial physically, mentally as well as socially. Three years ago, my husband, Ronnie and I were desperately trying to find ways to lose weight and tried gym fitness exercises and of course, running. It worked, we lost weight and in the process gained more friends. What else could we ask for?


With hubby, Kuya Ronnie who's been with her on the road, the trail, anytime, anywhere ;) (Pinatubo Express, 080110)


LONGEST DISTANCE?

100k in recently concluded TNF 100 held at Camsur last April 29.


HOW MANY ROAD RUNS? TRAIL RUNS?

(Runvocate: Brace yourself guys!)

41 road runs (2 ultras, 6 full marathon, 7 half M, 26 fun runs)

9 trail runs (4 ultras, 2 half marathon, 3 fun runs)


Tired but never quitting! (1st Cebu Ultramarathon, 112710)

Yebah! Didn't seem like she just finished an ultra marathon (PAU Pagudpod Ultramarathon, 082910)


HOW MUCH DO YOU LOVE TRAILS?

60/40- trail over road. I find trail runs extremely challenging. It improves balance and strength since they usually take place on dirt roads, streams and mountains of varying terrain. I enjoy the rappelling on vertical surface or cliff, crossing rivers by stepping over rocks, running on steep hills or even on the edge of ravine when your heart beats faster than your feet.


Enjoying the mud like a child with her friend, Chinky Tan ;)


WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST TRAIL RUN AND HOW DID IT GO?

2009 TNF Sacobia. It was my first taste of trail. We registered for the 22k category. Since it was held at Sacobia in Clark Pampanga, we were informed that we'd run mostly on lahar areas. Technically our shoes were submerged into water, sand and dirt. The race was almost cancelled because of the bad weather a day before the race destroying base camp and halting 100k runners for safety reasons. But we were able to finish the race triumphantly and unknowingly. Since then I always looked forward for any upcoming trail races rather than the usual road.


Getting wet? Mud? Blisters? Bring it on!

(TNF Sacobia trail run, 052409). The heat was on.. so what?!


WHY DID YOU JOIN TNF 100? VTC?

TNF 100 Camsur was actually not in our race list. We were supposed to return to Cebu for the 2nd 65k Coast to Coast ultra marathon. But just a few days before the last day of TNF registration, I though, "how about 100 this time?" From TNF 50k in Baguio last year to TNF 100? Is it be possible? Can my body endure the grueling 30hrs cut off time, non-stop running and walking on various mountain terrains despite my now you see, now you don’t injuries? Immediately, I relayed the idea to my [co-addictus] trail running friend, Chinky Tan, and she (without any second thought) agreed with me. She even managed to encourage six other running friends to join us. The result was ultra history.


With her friends at Mt. Maculot. Training for TNF Camsur

VTC - I guess, same generic reason, love of trail runs! Plus it was organized by our friend, Jonel Mendoza who is also known for his extra miles/kms generosity. Also the VTC challenging routes and it’s an ultra.

Valley Trail Challenge.. when many decided to stop, she went on.. smiling! ;)


WHAT DID YOU LIKE MOST IN TNF 100? VTC?

TNF 100 - The challenging race route, the rappelling portion, the majestic Mt. Isarog Falls that surprised us after the treacherous steep and muddy declines and the race itself being well organized by RD Neville Manaois, CD Levi, TNF marshals, security and medical staff. The pre and post events shared together with our friends will be treasured forever.


Looking strong and happy with Chinky at the Mt. Isarog falls. TNF 100 Camsur

VTC – the 7K bonus, the scenery (couldn't believe, it’s just a few Ks away from Manila) and how it was organized. Perfect!


WHAT WAS THE HARDEST PART?

TNF 100 - The last 5k where the finish line was just around the corner where I thought that I was already at the 98km marker but found out that it was a big mistake! I was so excited when I finally entered the CWC grounds with ample remaining time but my excitement turned to nightmare when a race marshal instructed me to turn down right. I said, "Whaaaaat?!?! Are you kidding?" At that time, I wanted to scream and yell at him but what’s the use? I was already so sleepy, hungry and so dammed tired. My whole body was aching, as if these were not enough, we had to traverse the CWC Park, soaked my pressed and blistered foot on streams, climbed on muddy trail desperately looking for any on-sight stick just to be able to balance and keep me standing, I was so grateful to my running friend, Chinky who was with me the entire race. We crossed the finish line together.


I still get goosebumps everytime I see this photo. Celebrating her victory with Chinky. They did it and they said, they're doing it again. Salute!

VTC? – Right after 20k of the 1st loop where I felt my knees locked and the pain was so intense that running seemed impossible. Upon reaching back at the base camp, I was tempted to quit but I persevered and found myself walking as fast as I could in the entire 2nd loop. Surprisingly, I finished the race within the cut off time despite the pains.


TIPS FOR THOSE WHO’D LIKE TO DO TRAIL RUN. FINAL WORDS.


Priceless! That smile and glow in her eyes tell you how happy she was. Still standing strong and ready to sign up for another 100K

Every trail run is one of a kind. Anything is possible as long as you train hard. And when you’re in a trail, marvel at God’s creation, appreciate the majestic sceneries, be strong and confident, and always think positive. Statistics states that only 1 in 1000 can finish a marathon, I definitely believe that the odds are much much higher in running an ultra trail marathon.


The ultra trail runner is also an ultra loving grandmother

Maybe someday, when someone asks my grandchild Enzo, “where’s your lola?” he will proudly say “nasa bundok po, tumatakbo po ng 100km trail run!!!” If you didn’t know me personally, would you believe him?……….. Awesome, isn’t it?

Friday, June 24, 2011

EXTRA CHALLENGE at the Valley Trail Challenge


After finishing 50K in the TNF 100 Camsur last month, I’ve always looked forward to running in another trail. I thought roads are always there anyway so I should take advantage of trail runs which are rarely being offered.

Before I continue, let me first congratulate Mr. Jonel Mendoza, the Frontrunner and rest of their team for such a successful race. Thank you for your hard work and effort to provide runners with a new and exciting route; and sufficient hydration and Nature Valley energy bars. It also felt like a gathering of friends sharing the same passion for adventure.

VTC lived up to its title. It was challenging indeed. In fact it was one of my difficult races not only because of the long distance but also because of the extreme heat, the rolling hills, the trail that’s more challenging to my knees and the tendency of getting dehydrated. But more than these, there were other challenges I had to overcome to finish it.


CHALLENGE 1: INJURY

When I heard about the Valley Trail Challenge, I got excited and thought I should join despite recurring pain on my right knee which I tried to disregard but was too painful I could not simply brush aside. It weighed on me in all my runs and got me frustrated especially during races. I felt like dragging it all the time even when walking. After doing half marathons every week before the VTC as part of my training, I decided to take a rest the week before. I drastically reduced my mileage and did cross training instead. I mustered all courage to resist the temptation to run to give my knee a break and a chance to recover. While I think that I deserved some pat on the back for not being too hard headed, I also recognized the mistake of refusing to see a specialist to have it checked which I should do soon. Anyway, I think that rest helped me finish the VTC.

CHALLENGE 2: LACK OF REST AND SLEEP

Although the knee had the chance to rest from running, I had not. That week was one my busiest weeks at work. I had to do back to back travels with just a few hours of sleep to meet deadlines and handle events. The day before the race, I even came from Mindanao and only had three hours of sleep which made me more worried about how I’d perform in the race.

CHALLENGE 3: ANXIETY

As usual, as in other races, anxiety overwhelmed me before the start. On our way to Nuvali, I kept on sighing because of being too nervous.

When we got in the race area, I met a few friends and chatted with them to try to release the tension. I was so anxious my hands were feeling cold.

With friends before the race (L-R) Jesus Roque, Chinky Tan, Elma Gabriana, Shiela Compendio, Ronnie Gabriana, David Buban, Jose Leorenzo Mina


CHALLENGE 4: GETTING LOST

When the gun was fired, I ran with the pack and along some friends. We took the first kilometer slow and easy but after warming up I felt the adrenalin rush to run faster so I did.

I was having the time of life, enjoying the ability to run that fast again after being stalled for almost a month because of injury until I heard someone shouting from behind saying that we were heading towards the wrong route. I had to run back and did it a bit faster since I was told that we lost 1.6K already. I thought I should compensate by sprinting. While I was so engrossed in recovering my lost mileage, I was also starting to get worried I might burn out too early in the race so I slowed down.

At that time, I didn’t have any idea about my rank. That was the last thing on my mind. I thought a bunch of female runners were already ahead but after the first water station, I was informed that I was running second.

It was good news but also an added pressure. I thought I should maintain it which meant I could not go as easy as planned.

To be able to run faster, I left my assault pack with a friend who was at the last kilometer before the base camp so I'd be load free and since I was starting to get blisters on my shoulders. I took the risk of not taking it and just brought along with me a 500ml bottle of water.

Since the third placer was just too close I tried to run fast to have enough lead and rest in the next kilometers. While most runners stopped, took some rest, changed shirts and shoes at the base camp, I did not. I was so in a hurry, I just grabbed a bottle of Pocari, refilled my water bottle, got a bar of trail mix and headed off.

Tired even before the first half


CHALLENGE 5: GETTING LOST. AGAIN!

Maybe because of too much rushing, although the second half was just the same route as the first, I still got lost. One of my weaknesses is not having a sense of direction so when I got confused about where to go and was pointed by a marshal to go straight instead of going right, I did. I was with two other runners finding our way in that area where no signs and no other runners were.

I got very frustrated, at the verge of crying and almost gave up. I hated my self, all I wanted to do was just go back and stop. So arrogant of me!

I think I spent almost ten minutes roaming around. Since I got lost again, I tried to compensate by sprinting, this time with my legs already tired and weak. I knew I’d feel terribly bad if I didn’t make it just because of getting lost so I pushed myself so hard.

When I finally ran past the then second placer and had a few meters lead, I was happy I could finally do what I'd been wanting to do which was to run at a relax pace or even walk. But when I reached the water station, the marshal informed me that I was the 3rd placer and the 2nd one just left. Like a rabid dog, I wonder what got into me but what I did was run fast and looked for the 2nd placer. Again, after getting ahead of her and having some lead, I started walking since my legs were so exhausted especially with the heat.

Last K before the finish line. See that pressure and exhaustion on my face?


CHALLENGE 6: KEEPING THE LEAD

While walking, a woman ran ahead of me but I was then willing to let go of being a second placer since I was already drained to catch up and was beginning to experience cramps. But at the water station, I saw her resting so I took advantage to go ahead. I ran and ran and ran to keep my lead and then jogged and walked after a couple of kilometers.

When I thought I could already rest, someone from behind called my name and asked if I was trying to keep a place since the woman next to me, he said, was just meters away. So even if I was already wasted, I ran at my race pace again until I crossed the finish line.

With the organizer, Mr. Jonel Mendoza who handed the medal for being the 1st runner up among the female finishers


CHALLENGE 7: WAS IT RIGHT?

I placed second, took that huge medal and gift packs home but wasn’t completely happy as everyone thought I should. I felt disturbed with the way I behaved in the race, with how competitive I’ve become and how arrogant I’ve been. Was it right that I missed the beauty of the trail because I was so engrossed with winning?

I wasn’t sure if it was right that I tried to outrun those women and felt good after. I wasn’t sure if it was right that I took that much pressure just to have a podium finish. I wasn’t sure if the level of my being competitive was still right or if I’ve crossed the line of arrogance.

I was happy that I took the discipline to rest for my injury; that I was able to strike a balance between work and trying to get some rest for the race; that I didn’t give up despite getting lost, the heat, the exhaustion, the cramps and all; but I was faced with the greater challenge which was to reflect about what kind of person I’ve become. The more important challenge that bothers me until now.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

LOVE CONQUERS ALL (An ultra trail runner who didn't like trails)



- Shiela Compendio, Ultra road and trail runner


More than a hundred runners and mountaineers joined the recently concluded TNF 100 Camsur on April 30- May 1, 2011. I assume most of us were there because of two things; either we love to run or we love to climb.

TNF 50K runners heading off the race after the gun start


But someone I know was there not so much for those two common reasons but because she loves her friends. Yes, she likes to run but not much the trail but she ranked 10thamong the female finishers. And yes, her reason wasn’t like the rest because she is really extra ordinary.


Relak. Relak. With her friends during the orientation, day before the race


With one of her best friends, Chinky Tan who finished the 100K run


I had the privilege of running with Ms. Shiela Compendio the entire 50K since we, together with four other friends, decided to go through the entire race together.


We're enjoying the trail. At one point, our friends went ahead of us. We're left together in a trail w/o anyone around us and then it rained. Yaygs! No she's not going to hit me with the stick, she's just showing it ;)


If I were to rank who among us didn’t like the trail most, Shiela would be on top of my list. Maybe all of us had our own reservations about trail runs but since Shiela was the most open and vocal about it, I'd also consider her with the most courage and commitment to finish the race. It was so inspiring, I thought others should also know her story.


Serious look. With her friends who ran with her to the finish line


While I admired everyone who finished the race, I had a different kind of admiration for those who were able to do it even if they could have chosen not to. The race itself offered various challenges to overcome but it must have been more difficult trying to finish with another one within you. But Shiela successfully conquered every difficulty there was.

She not only set her foot on deciding to do it, she also took the discipline to train and worked hard for it.

To those who are having second thoughts about joining trail runs, I hope that this post would encourage you to try it. While road runs give us a certain high, trail runs give another level of satisfaction that’s worth all the courage all fears.

Here is my very inspiring ‘interview’ with a good friend, Shiela.


How long have you been running?

Three years. Not sure though if you can count my very first in July 2007 where my weight management consultant convinced me to try joining Fitness First 7km fun run for health purposes. It was then followed in August 2008 when a friend asked if my husband and I were interested in joining Mens Health 10km relay for a cause. We agreed. From there on we yearned for more, and the rest is, ultra, history.


Longest distance?

70km ultramarathon at Pagudpod, Ilokos Norte in August 2010


How many road runs ? trail runs?

Road runs : 52 road runs. Trail runs : 3


How much do you love trails? Why?

Can I just re-phrase the before TNF Camsur question to “how much do I not-so-like trails”, or “why do I not-so-like trails”

I am dainty, clingy, and an ultra worry wrat. If you leave me alone in the middle of a mountain or forest, I will surely die helplessly and pathetically.


What was your first trail run and how did it go?

21km TNF at Sacobia, Clark in 2009.

The dreadful river crossing was the highlight of that trail. My somewhat OC-ness whispered the need to avoid drippin my feet by checking on protuded rocks to step on. I was hopeful that I will finish the race unsoiled, like I always do in all my road races. Expectedly, I was wrong. With my eyes closed, eventually succumed to drenching my shoes and just forced myself to savor this once-in-a-lifetime crossing of the river.

My edginess never stopped in the river crossing as we were surprised by a narrow uphill course with a rope. Still stunned, and ignoring the inflow of runners waiting for me to assault, some of which I allowed to overtake me, told my husband, Jonas, that I’d rather DNF than go up there. Jonas irritatingly insisted otherwise explaining the need to pass through the river should I decide to DNF. Hearing the river thingy, took a deep breath, got my hanky and crawled.

With a muddy shoes, dead toenail, an increased heart rate, and an acceptable finish time, as Jonas forced me to run in the middle of a slightly call-it-a-desert-place, my first trail run went well.


Why did you join this year’s TNF 100 Camsur?

I am an only child so I try to give as much love and care to my friends as possible the way siblings should be with each other. Now I have 2 reasons:

- For the love of supporting my friends, whom I can’t afford to miss the chance of seeing at the finishline.

- For the love of being with my friends wherever they go for as long as I can and as long as I want.

To busy ourselves during the race, the initial plan was for us to run 22km, but when one of our friends said in jest, why not 50km? everyone agreed.


Looking excited with her friends and a running buddy, her sunblock, before gun start


What did you like most in the race?

Three things:

Savoring the magnificence of Gods creation. Amidst of extreme challenges and endless surprises of TNF Camsur, I enjoyed the stillness of the Bamboo farm, the riveting falls and the bewitching part of Mount Isarog. I kept on thanking God for this chance to see his creation.

Safety and security of race participants is first at TNF 100. The visibility of warm and accommodating marshalls and the presence of both the Camsur Police and Military people gave me assurance that no matter what happens I know I will go home safe and sound.

Route markers were visible almost everywhere. If you brought your awareness, not only strenght, with you in TNF Camsur, it is impossible to really get lost.


There she goes! Running strong! Yeba!


What did you hate most?/What was the hardest part?

I cannot say the hatest but the hardest part. Prior to reaching 7km mark while I was still enjoying our warm up, we were already greeted by a pretty muddy downhill trail. Technically, had to traverse sideways forward-facing in an awfully think lane about 10 meters, slowly grasping to any stable rock or stem, to safely go down. It was one of the many grueling fraction in the race that increases my heart rate, that one miscalculation would mean, falling and hitting sharp hardened thingy. Good thing I made it without tumbling and falling.

Having second thoughts about making any step but she did it ;)


How did you train for it?

-We climbed Mt. Maculot/Rockies in Batangas, 2 weeks prior to the event. It was my first real taste of mounting climbing where I literally cried of fear when I first saw a steep row of rocks.

-Outdoor uphill dowhill running at least 2x a week

-Indoor, I did the following: Treadmill with the max gradient of 8 - 2x a week. Yoga - once or 2x a week. Cross training : spinning and lifting weights 2x a week.


She rocks! Overcoming Mt. Maculot.


What would you like to say to other runners who consider joining trail runs? Any tips?

- Get a running buddy, especially if you plan to do ultra trail run. Nothing is more comforting than running long distance with people you like.

- Prepare to get dirty. Sometimes, it’s fun to see mud in your hands or even in your face. That means you are a trail runner, yey!!

- Ready to stumble and fall.

- Take it slow (only for the non-competitive trail runners), as you will surely reach the finish line.

- Strategize, not to fall, even if stumbling and falling is part of the game. Believe me, I didn’t.

- Enjoy and savor every minute of the trail run. Not everyone has the chance to experience connecting with nature.


Priceless! Big smile at the finish line


Describe your experience in one word? Why?

AWESOME

Doing 50km of TNF was awesomely challenging, awesomely worth it: the travel, the race fee, the exhaustion. And awesomely cool.

Now, shall I join future TNF races? YES!!!


That's courage personified!

Looking forward to the next TNF 100 run not only with Shiela but with you, guys as well.