I was not quite sure what to expect with my 3rd attempt to conquer Salomon X Trail Run. Although the venue had been changed to Anvaya Cove in Morong, Bataan, I did not expect the organizer would give up spicing up this event with features that made the previous venue in Hamilo, Batangas quite unforgettable and unforgiving. That’s why as early as I was queuing for the shuttle service, I was already assuaging myself that in the event I once again failed in this attempt I should at least feel glad that I managed to visit Anvaya Cove, which I only get to see its advertisement splashed along the road on the way to Subic Bay area from Bagac in Bataan.
At the shuttle terminal I ran with Ricky Francisco and Ricky Gregorio. Like I did the previous week, both also ran at the 1st Bulacan 60k Ultramarathon. Riding high with the latter’s accomplishment of having finished that run event, Ricky Francisco and I were not just doing Salomon X trail as a sort of recovery from the run but also a recovery of pride from our failure to finished in the 1st Sagada Circuit Marathon about two weeks prior to this current event.
At 5:30 a.m. after passing through a mandatory checking of required gear of whistle, hydration pack and headlamp we were given our gun start. Even before we left the starting chute the sky had given way to daylight so the first to get shelve was my headlamp. About close to 300 24 k category participants ran along the initially concrete paved road along SBMA-Morong Road which after a short while ended with our entering the trail portion of the route. Last year the trail immediately introduced the runners to an uphill run that became clogged because a runner at the early juncture of the race got injured at the very spot runners were to climb up. Today however, the trail was like those I had experienced at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa through Soleus Valley Trail Challenge, mainly flat dirt and grassy path in an open area. The trail led through the former Vietnamese settlement where some houses had fallen into disrepair. This portion lies at the 5.5 kilometers of the race. Later the route carried us to river crossings including one later on with calve deep and slippery rocks underneath the river. Eventually we reached concrete road again that soon began to run steeply inclined uphill. Then we’re back to off-road again followed by another steep climb where the crest led to more trail. The sea could be seen farther along the left side. The heat of the sun had gotten so intense that it was innervating. My knees soon were buckling. A few more moments my foot had gotten caught on a root and found myself falling face flat like a log on the ground. The impact of my fall had my eyeglasses’ lens falling loose from its nylon frame while the nose clip torn off. My left calf seem to have over-stretched and became was painful to move. Other runners rushed to aid me by lifting me off my feet so I could stand on my two legs. I thanked them profusely and told them I was all right. They probably thought I collapse due to the heat because as they left me one advised me to drink up. I was actually trying to shake myself out from the initial shock I felt from hitting the ground. I surveyed my body for any other injuries aside from my bruised and bloodied knees. The pain I initially felt in my calves relented. While resting and waiting to get my senses fully restored, I tried to put back my eyeglasses together but it was clear without the nose clip, I could not be able to wear it again. So, for the rest of the leg of the run I was without eyeglasses. Everything on the ground seemed to shine brightly that I couldn’t very well distinguish the contour of the ground I was threading on. Unlike in the initial stage of this run I was now moving a bit slower borne by exhaustion and some impinging pain I was feeling here and there. It did not help a bit that I was well aware of the 5-hour cut-off time I was trying to beat. I began to worry that for the third time not making it at the cut-off time was becoming even more apparent.
I reached Aid Station 3 at 15.5 kilometer. Although each AS had ample supply of cold Gatorade and iced filled water jug, the Aid Station had no cup to spare and those manning the Aid Station did not want to lend to the runners the cap of the water containers to be use for drinking. I was desperately in want of a cold drink although I still have a full hydration bladder but the water in it was not cold. I was pleading to be lent with any container I could drink from but those people manning the AS had no intention of giving in nor seemed damn concern about how I felt. It was heaven sent that a runner lend me his hydration bottle so I could drink from it. After drinking myself until I felt bloated with liquid, I left the Aid Station and climbed the stone stairs leading a tower then into the trail. There was a race marshal manning this area and he told me that the current route was heading to the coast. There were just about 8 kilometers to go before the finish line. Upon reaching the boulder-strewn coastline there was a portion that I had to waded through the water to reach another portion of the beach. I got a scared of my life when a jellyfish was swimming or floating towards me and almost caught up with me. Running over rocky landscape along a coast resembled last year’s Salomon X-trail Run’s last leg of the race at Hamilo Coast. I however, never got to reach that point last year because I got lost along the route. The stretch of the beach which runners had to negotiate was about 6 kilometers long peppered with jellyfishes marooning the beachhead. There were portions where the beach was sandy and soft to run at. Because of it, it became quite a struggle running, to think time was fast winding down. By this time after struggling the last 10 kilometers and being over taken by runners behind me, I soon found out I gained some distance and caught up with those who had earlier over taken me. As a result my confidence that I will finish this race bolstered up.
Finally after leaving the coast for the last time, I was told that just a little less than 2 kilometers left from my finally taking home my first Salomon X Trail finisher medal. But even as I began to hear the blast of the sound system blaring from the event venue, the surrounding environment does not bear exactly where the finish line was situated. All around were tree line and again vast flat dirt landscape that seems to go on and on. Even as the marker stated that just a kilometer was left, instead of having hope that the toil was finally over, there was no way one could feel the toil was ending. Then I turned leftward leading to a gate. The ground changed into gravel then the most wonderful sight revealed itself. I saw the concrete road and inclining rightward lay the finisher arch. An untapped source of energy fired me to run even though I was actually running low on juice and was experiencing cramping at my calves. I could not allow this chance to blow off simply because I didn’t make it to the finish line on time because I came in a few minutes pass the cut off time which happened with me at Akyathlon when I missed the summit cut off time by 10 minutes. I already saw some photographers taking snap shots of my arrival at the finisher arch. Unlike last year I will have a photo-souvenir of my tour at Salomon X Trail 2015. As I crossed the finish line I saw the event announcer was sitting under the arch, I could not help myself from shouting, “Revenge run finally completed” while the finisher medal was being hung around my neck and feeling the weight of accomplishment. The event announcer heard my cry and echoed my sentiment that for many runners, this event was a fulfillment of their desire to revenge for last year’s dismal display. I finished with a time of 4:50:01 10 minutes before the supposed cut off time. Later I found out that even those who made it beyond the 5 hours cut of time of the 24k category had gotten their finisher medals as well. My road to capture what I failed last year had truly began for the following day barely I had rested, along with some of the Salomon X-Trail 2015 finishers, I ran at the 42k category of the National Geographic Earth Day Run 2015 Manila Leg and also finished it. Taking home my first 42k finisher medal for this event after DNF-ing last year at the 34th kilometers because of my painful foot that was still suffering from Plantar Fasciitis. My next target is to finally capture my first finisher medal at the 50k category of the TNF100 happening in June. Who knows maybe if I keep up with all the positive vibes I might even finish a 100km before this year ends.