From T2N Take Two To The Falls Run in Bataan

After emerging victorious at TNF100 2016 with bruised knees, I set my eyes on conquering the 10th Tagaytay to Nasugbu held in May 8, 2016. I already ran in the Tagaytay to Nasugbu in 2014 when it still held two events in a year one in May and another in December. The one I happened to participate before was the 8th T2N, held in a much cooler month of December. This was the last time T2N was held twice in a year and in December. Finishing T2N then gave me a lot of confidence since this was my first time to run under the event of Bald Runner who is known to organized badass run events. Finishing the 10th T2N now when the temperature is searing hot would be a true test of mettle.

 

I thought having survived the hot temperature in the events Batoq 66 and Mayon 360 I would be quite formidable and invincible to the whim of the prevailing surge of temperature brought about by the El Niño. But what had embraced me in the 10th T2N almost brought me down to my knees. Speaking of knee, another thing that almost played a spoiler role in my quest was the bruised left knee I incurred at TNF100. My left knee had swollen and because of it I had difficulty bending my left leg. Thus hampering my walking and with a slightest touch my left knee exploded with pain. It seem that missing T2N was almost at hand and I was willing to accept it. After all my registration to T2N comes from offsetting my previous registration at 5th Fort Magsaysay to Dingalan 65k Ultramarathon an event from last year which was canceled due to typhoon. I planned before to have my registration transfer instead to Mariveles to Bagac the newest run event of BR but the scheduled initially coincided with Mayon 360 and so I decided to transfer the earlier registration to Tagaytay to Nasugbu. It seemed that I would be transferring once again my registration to another event or completely abandoned any thought of claiming offset. By Thursday however, the swelling had disappeared and I was even able to run a short distance though my left knee still hurts a bit.

 

On the day I was boarding the service van, I learned that Shiella the Shuttle service provider, was also running the 10th T2N. This was to be her first ultramarathon. She was converting the van into a support vehicle that would provide hydration at the 25th kilometers and the 46th kilometers. I was volunteering to act as support crew in the occasion I was not able to get a race bib for this event. However, the God of Running was generous with me, I got my race bib and was sure set to run T2N after all. This year the number of participants had shot up to 197. Many of the participants were probably running T2N as part of the requirement for running the 102k and 160k Bataan Death March. As a consequence of this sudden swelling of number of participants there weren’t enough Finisher Medals and Finisher shirts during the event and would have to be distributed later as I experienced in the 8th T2N when runners from the Milo National Marathon upon its postponement due to typhoon registered on site at T2N.

 

In this year’s T2N I saw more familiar faces than I had when I ran in the 8th T2N. This means many of my acquaintances will be running the BDM. Add this to last year’s finishers of BDM many of which were my running acquaintances. It is now becoming clear that most of the people I previously run with had already run the BDM. I am the only one that had been skirting the BDM. Should I feel any pressure? Among those who run in this year’s T2N were Peewee who is becoming a much stronger runner than the first time I knew him, Rob and Speedy Turtle who I ran with in Batoq 66 and Mayon 360. Tina the barefoot queen was also seeing action. So does mang Mando whom I ran with in 3rd Cavinti Trail run upgraded to ultramarathon. Another runners from Mayon 360 were Jhon of Team hero and Elmar another barefooted runner running this time with his five finger Vibram.

 

At gun start I tested the water whether my left leg can handle the task. I felt like there was a stopper lodged at my knee and could only extend it to a certain length. I was moving terribly slow. However after perhaps about two kilometers along Tagaytay-Calamba Road and then hitting the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road, I forgot about what was hampering my left knee. I could run a bit faster though I chose not to tackle the uphill like I did in the 8th T2N. A new concern arose. This time my stomach was acting up and I was in need to take number 2. I tried to endure it for a moment and focus on trying to catch up with everyone I knew including my van mate Dana a finisher of BDM in spite of having run just a couple of 50k ultra. She was a moment ago just running along side of me before she sped away and was gone from my sight. Day light came quite quickly. I remember from my 8th T2N that when I was passing by Mendez and Alfonso the surrounding then was still dimly lit. Now the sun was already beaming when I was passing along Twin Lakes, which was probably around 18 kilometers.

 

One indication that I was probably at the last portion of the queue of runners was when I saw Elmar passed me by while I was tucking my reflectorized vest and headlamp inside my hydration vest. In two races I saw him, he usually finish last. Another indication was my not being able to catch a glimpse of Shiella our Van provider. One of my co-shuttle Van User told me she was ahead of us being paced by another van mate. Finally, I sighted a gas station lying along the left side of the road that I can use to dispense myself of my troubles. As a rule of BR runners cannot cross the right side of the road for whatever reason. Seeking for gas station, which normally has toilet lying on the left side of the road along Tagaytay-Nasugbu was not easy since at the left side of the road was usually lies ravine. Upon reaching the 25th kilometer along Batulao Sandari area the sun was already scorching. This would be the norm all through out the route. I kind of envy those with support vehicles since they have unlimited hydration and refreshments while on my part I contended myself with what was on my back and what I could buy along the route. Bottled water was the most difficult to come by along the stores lining up the road. While those selling coconuts were usually found at the right side of the road. I survived on soda, “ice-water” or premature frozen water and sometime from the generosity of the other support vehicles, which extended whatever they can from fruits, water to sponge bath. The traffic of the incoming vehicle was as it was before which was frequent and unforgiving that was why I usually ended up running along the shoulder of the road ala trail running. The heat had really dampened my stamina and so I could only do a lot of zombie like walking. I was not however, falling far behind for I could still see ahead of me runners, which I could have easily overtaken if the heat hadn’t taken a toll on me. But from a couple of support crew I had spoken with there weren’t many at may tail and I was not far from ending up like how I finished from the couple of BR events I participated with after the 8th T2N, which was usually near the last runner to cross the finish line before the cut off time. In the end I managed to prevail finishing the race with a time of eight hours and thirty minutes. I managed to finish with a rank of 167th out of 188 who finished the race.

A week after Tagaytay To Nasugbu on May 15, 2016, I was thinking that after TNF100 I had enough of trail running for a while. But the trail leading to Pasukulan Falls in Pag-Asa, Tala, Orani, Bataan was beckoning me. I was actually trying to set foothold in Bataan through running so that I can add Bataan among the provinces I was able to run in. Although previously I was able to run in Camaya Coast located in Mariveles, it was more of a beach and trail at the fringes of Bataan. I wanted to have a longer line of road from Mariveles in absence of what running at the 102 kilometers Bataan Death March Ultramarathon could provide. The event 1st Mountain View Road to Trail Run was just one of the way to induct me to the other portions of Bataan.

 

1st Mountain View Road to Trail was a 26 kilometers run event that started from St. Joseph Bakhita Parish Church. On the way runners passed by Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park, which is located about 1.5 kilometers from the staring line. This was where the concrete road ended and the trail began with steep uphill, which the 36 participants tackled, some like Ricky Runner and Tatay Caesar strongly other like RDF and I leisurely. Along the route in front one had a command view of Mt. Natib with clouds hovering on top of the mountain. One could also espied at the rear portion of the route the majestic Mt. Arayat towering above the sea of clouds while Morong lies at the eastern portion with the sea feeding Subic’s coastline. Trekkers usually traverse the trail from Morong to Mt. Natib. At about 4 kilometers was AS1, which featured Binutas View Deck. After that it was mostly wooded and light foliaged area along the route until Pasukulan Falls. From the moment RDF and I touched the trail I was bit careful with my steps. Whereas before when I was first time running the trail I was usually running without much care at the ground I stepped upon, nowadays I was careful. This was since a couple of trail events when I noticed I easily trip and quite often on rough surface especially when I am already tired. Someone told me I had problem with proper balancing. I almost avoided trail run events because of these but I still dream of running some of Jonel Mendoza’s trail events and I still have to do my revenge run on Mt. Ugo before thinking of retiring from any trail running.

 

Mountain View was not actually one of the most difficult trail events though it has a fair share of challenging uphill and downhill that I was not spared from my usual fare of falling off my butt along the route. There were quite a number of river crossings with one dried that almost looks similar to the one that had me losing my way at Pico De Loro. Some were just a bit of a puddle of muck. I was seemingly off my elements when crossing two of the shallower rivers where I still managed to find my foot slipping off the rock or missing the rock completely and landing squarely on the water. At about 3 hours since gun start several runners had already passed us by returning from the fall. I had hoped since Ricky Runner and Tatay Ceasar had passed us by that the u-turn was just a little less than two kilometers away and the other runners were just having time swimming at the waters around the fall. So that we could level a bit the time between us by just making a quick stop at the U-turn. Finally we heard the unmistakable sound of water falling and voices of people probably taking a swim. We were nearing the U-turn of the race and it look like our target time of finishing the race before 12 noon was indeed achievable. But before we could finally reach Pasukulan we had to climb down a steep slope whose foothold had gotten so loose and powdery that one might easily slip all the way down. Aided by a lone vine I rappelled down. RDF who was in front of me disappeared to which I thought he just simply dashed off. When I reached where a marshal was waiting for the incoming runners, RDF was still nowhere to be found. I thought he might have gotten lost along the way, which was impossible for the path was straightforward. After a couple of photograph session with the falls at the background, I was settling down to take a rest when RDF appeared. It turned out he took a #2 somewhere. Some runners who had came in earlier and had just finished taking a bath at the cold waters of Pasukulan were getting ready to take the trail again. Among them was the Greeneye Runner whose troll hair or wig is the one that is actually green. After a couple of photo ops with them they left. RDF wanted to move closer down the water of the falls but I relented for I wanted to leave immediately. Then those three runners trailing behind us suddenly made their appearance. This was our cue to leave in spite the desire of RDF to take a dip on the water. The need to avoid finishing last was much stronger especially those who were trailing behind us were a married couple and a local runner who had gotten slow after we overtook him after AS 2. On the way back a couple of long steep uphill met us that had me huffing and puffing. But my TNF 100 experience was able to sustain our assault. Then mostly downhill to a more leveled path, which kind of made the rest of our trip less eventful. At AS1 the three runners behind us was almost closing in on us so once again we dashed off. Finally we were on the concrete downhill portion of the race. With a time of 6 hours and 30 minutes we finished the racecourse but not before the 3 runners we thought were the last runners behind us overtook us at the last 2 kilometers. We could not summon enough strength to catch up and therefore was not able to salvage our pride. However a hot Lomi meal after the race was almost enough to assuage our bittersweet finish.

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Facing Another Formidable North Face 100 In Baguio

It was just around 6:00 p.m. of April 30, 2016 but up there at the trails of Camp John Hay darkness had already engulfed us and the only sources of light illuminating our path came from our individual headlamps. Raindrops continue to trickle down but you could sense any moment it will cease without being notice.  I had difficulty seeing beyond few steps ahead of me as my sport goggle became fogged from heat emitting from my body and interacted with the cold forest temperature around us. As we hiked along wet trail and knotted roots I saw myself falling behind my companions. I kept calling out to ask for their position but RDF’s voice was becoming less and less audible by the seconds that passed by until finally I couldn’t hear any of it if ever he managed to call out back. I am just 3 kilometers away from accomplishing my come back run in The North Face 100 2016 50 kilometers category, which happened in Baguio City where two years ago I failed to finish it. I regretted it so hard for several months. My last year’s finish of the 50 kilometers of TNF100 held at Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, Laguna was almost enough to assuage my feeling but I felt I had to conquer Baguio if I want to find my peace.  With the finish line so near I should not worry anymore but finding myself all alone with vision impaired inside a forest played back the fear I had before deciding to quit at 32 kilometer at Mt. Cabuyao 2 year ago. I was worried then that if I continue I might find myself blanketed with darkness with headlamp suddenly failing and shoes not suited well for mountain trail running I might fall into a ravine. Earlier while I was at the first 3 kilometers of this race with darkness still bathing the surrounding at a little half an hour away from our 4:00 am gun start, I tripped on an exposed rock and hurt both my knees. I was luckier because another runner actually fell in one of the chasm and was brought to the hospital due to injuries sustained during the fall.

 

Having difficulty keeping track of the route marker I was having trouble of moving ahead since I had to test every direction to see if there were path leading to the next marker. Then all of a sudden from behind me 2 foreign runners running the 100k passed by. Their headlamps served as a beacon beckoning me to follow until their lights flickered out. Soon some of the reflectorized markers buzzed to life as they capture light from my headlamp. There were occasion that it took a kind of leap of faith to just keep on going because distance among these reflectorized markers were far in between the next. On the occasion that there were no reflectorized markers the TNF flag-lets tacked on the bark of a tree could be discerned. I must be coming close to the end of the trail for soon a cordon of TNF flag-lets lined up the path and slowly the sound emitting from the event ground was becoming louder. I was taken aback when out of my periphery vision appeared a marshal pointing me to my next direction. I emerged at last from the trail beside Le Monet Hotel and landed on the road. At a nearby restaurant people cheered and clapped as I passed by. When I first joined TNF under 22k in 2013 I watched as runners from the 100km and 50 Km ran towards the finish line. People were cheering them like they were heroes coming from a battle. I said then I wanted to experience this. Last year as I was making my way to the finish line at 9:30 pm there were no more bystanders to cheer for me so I had to make noise for the organizers and marshals to be alerted of an incoming finisher. It was silence and sleepy announcer that greeted me when I made it to the finish line then. This year, I finally felt like the hero I imagined the runners were two years ago as they make their way to the finish line. Bolstered by confidence, I waved at the incoming traffic to keep them to my right. Hero passing, I though to myself. Soon I saw the TNF starting Arch. More cheers and clapping welcomed me.  As I was turning left of the road and into the dirt leading to the finish arch I ran carefully lest I find myself tripping once again this time to my embarrassment. But as soon as both of my feet were convinced the ground was solid enough I accelerated and dashed shouting something I could not remember what, may be “revenge” as I did in Salomon last year. I had to be told to freeze for a while for the photo op before the medal was hung around my neck.  The photo op at the finish arch, this is another thing I wanted so much because last year my photograph at the finish line did not materialized at any album concerning last year’s TNF100 event.

 

I came to Baguio with RDF who was doing 50k of TNF 100 for the first time. He ran in the 22k the previous year. He was supposed to run along with me but just before the gun start he drifted towards his running acquaintances, which almost felt like everyone. For my part I approached a few of mine like Arel who was running TNF100 for the second time. He first joined in the 100k category of TNF100 2014 and DNF when he was at Ampucao after not making it within the cut off time at the Aid Station. I met him in Team Malaya’s Gold Rush Mountain Marathon where the route took us to Ampucao.  After photo op at the famous Gungal Rock at Mount Ulap on the way back he DNF again. This year was his third attempt to surmount a race that featured Ampucao. Unfortunately in the end he didn’t succeeded once again. I also saw Adrian whom I met at Sagada Circuit Marathon and who along with RDF had DNF with.  He would find himself having knee issue and would slowly find his way to the finish line before he clocked out finishing third to the last. Finally to Jun who was the last runner to finish the Batanes Winter Marathon. He finished fourth to the last.

 

By gun start at 4:00 am I was all by myself, which was fine with me since I usually start slow as I tried to acclimate my body with the activity. RDF probably dashed off with his other companions, which included Jorge, whom I met in Bulacan 360 ultramarathon. He shortened his formerly long lock and shaved his beard otherwise he would end up looking like his two other running companions and be mistaken as triplets. I tripped and bruised both my knees at the first 3 kilometers but I simply brushed it off. From the height of 1,612 meters above sea level the path had a sustained downhill thrust leading to AS1, located at Kadaklan Road at some 4.49 kilometers from the Starting area. From this location runners run the trail that continued to descent going through a settled area where stairs and concreted path lined up the route. AS2 was located somewhere at 9 kilometers away from AS1 at Gumatdang, Itogon at 728 meters above sea level. I dressed with bandages the bruised knees I earlier incurred after someone pointed out they were bleeding. From here runners then took a short hike through concrete road then turned left toward a gravel-covered terrain heading towards another town. A hanging bridge then dirt road awaited runners before heading off towards the entrance of a trail leading runners to an almost endless series of uphill until the concrete road at Ampucao heralded by the transmission tower somewhere at 1,612 meters above sea level. About 6 50k runners had already come down from where I was going. I thought either the u-turn was nearer than I thought or this was something like what happened with me at Akyathlon where barely making it to the 15 kilometer when two Japanese coming from the opposite side of the path had passed me by. I ended up DNF also in this race for failing to make it to the cut off time by mere 10 minutes.  I also caught up with Adrian who was struggling to hike the uphill I really thought that he won’t make it on time for the cut off time. However, this year the medal count is much higher than the participants and it seemed that even if you didn’t make it on time to the finish line you will still receive a finisher medal unlike in the past events. This what kept Adrian going. Some portion of the trail was familiar with me as it was the same route used in the Gold Rush Mountain Marathon. With the banning of too much tourists activity at Mt. Cabuyao, this year TNF100 was not given the permission to include the former as part of the route. As a result the formerly 100k route that took them to Ampucao became the 50k U-turn area while the 100k’s route became more breath taking with the inclusion of Philex Ridge and other feature. AS 3 lies at the 29,05 kilometers at the Barangay Hall of Ampucao the base camp and where those hiking up to Mt. Ulap usually registers. I finally caught up with RDF and his company at the Barangay Hall, while quite earlier I passed by the sleeping Jorge in one of the trail before hitting Ampucao. I was looking forward for the rice porridge, which initially I thought had already gone out so I had to buy a rice noodle. But soon the rice porridge, which was being saved for the 100k runners were brought out once again since probably marshals saw that there were lesser 50k runners left to stop by at AS 3. I place a special mention to this rice porridge because of how it rejuvenated me in 2014 at Mt. Cabuyao and like wise at Tagaytay Highlands last year. I joined RDF for a while on the way back from AS 3 but I lost them along the trail only to catch up with them once again somewhere after the AS 2 after the series of stairs, which RDF mentioned had exhausted him.  I got separated with them once again after AS 1.

 

Later while trying to warm myself with cup of instant noodle and rice meal, I heard that the 100k runners who were at the 66 kilometers of the race and where caught up with the rain where eventually succumbed to DNF since the path became quite difficult to hike through and the again darkness had swept the area.  Out of 250 plus runners who left the starting arch only 90 runners were able to finish the race for the 100k. For the 50k runners it seems every one made it to the finish line. I clocked my finished time at 15 hours and 23 minutes ranking 215th.   RDF was consoling both our friend Daryll and Luis who both ran in the 100k but DNF telling them that next year he will take the 100k with them. I on my part having seen that the runners from the 22k category had gotten quite a very decent medal was thinking of probably running in the 22k.