Jogging The Jagged Peak of Mt. Batulao

 

I will never look a Mt. Batulao the same way again every time I look at it on our annual college students’ retreat at Caleruega, Nasugbu, Batangas after running on it in the event, 2nd Conquer Jagged Peak: Mt. Batulao Nasugbu-Caleruega Reverse held June 19, 2016 although it wasn’t my first time to climb Mt. Batulao. I once accompanied the UST Mountaineering Club in one of its new batch members’ first climb. We hiked from the Tagaytay –Nasugbu highway after our alighting from the bus. Much of the details of our trek were already lost to me but I suspect we used the old trail leading to the campsite where we pitched our tents and from there we launched for a quick peek of the peak. Like all first timers in Mt. Batulao I got a surprised of my life then when I found at the summit vendors selling Mountain Dew cola. Participating in the 21k category of the 2nd Conquer Jagged Peak jogged only a few memories of my previous experience with Mt. Batulao and did not spoiled a bit the excitement of reacquainting myself with Mt. Batulao via new and longer path steep with breath taking view.

 

The event 2nd Conquer Jagged Peak organized by Conquer Absolute Mountaineer Club headed by Race Director Benedict Meneses attracted 176 participants in the 21k category while 63 participants in the 10k. Among those who were acquainted with me were RDF, Daryll and Jorge who were also present at TNF100; Tatay Caesar whose strength always put my running in shame, Joni of Team Heroes who usually tackles road; Norma whom I ran along with in Jonel Mendoza’s Sagada Circuit Marathon; Emerson whom I ran along with in some of the Run Mania’s ultra but now had decided to run only half marathon distances after incurring an injury; my Sagada Marathon buddies Ria, Sandy, Jake, Beverly; Marielle one of my shuttle van mate at the 10th T2N; Rod who had been running mostly road ultramarathons of BR and Rodelio Mendoza; and Leo an FB friend but only now did I got meet in person.

 

Our journey to jog the Jagged Peak began at 5:30 am upon given the gun start. We immediately forgotten the cold early morning breeze we initially cringed against as we depart the Kaylaway Elementary School and headed off to the trail. I was pacing with Ria and Sandy which was somewhere at the last 1/3 portion of the line of runners. My pacing was slow and guarded in order to warm my body up for the exertion and to avoid slipping or tripping which happens to me frequently every trail run events I participate on. I am also keeping watch for that tightness feeling in my chest that I lately noticed occurring on my runs since after National Geographic Run where I DNF. As we hit a downhill off road portion there was a built up of runners resulting from the congestion of runners. Soon the 10k category runners whose gun start was given 10 to 15 minutes after the 21k runners’ began to make their appearance overtaking those of us stuck on the queue. The trails of Sitio Batang led runners to Caleruega, which lies a little less than 4 kilometers. We emerged at the parking area of Caleruega and were soon tackling the uphill concrete road going out of Caleruega leading to the Aid Station 1. After a short refreshment of banana, water and rice cake we were directed to the trail leading to Sitio Aralisay. There was a moment where some of the runners ahead of us took a different path from the one we took and when they saw us they double back. Among those who took the different path was RDF. I waited for him to catch up. We reached the trail leading to Sitio Balabag. The 10 km runners bade the 21k adieu as they took the route to Sitio Patliw. RDF found himself complaining of stomach trouble and dizziness. While I felt little of that tightness in my chest area whose cause was probably my lack of warming up exercises before the run. I thought since this ailment seems just a recent occurrence to me maybe my age is finally catching up with me. But every time I see Tatay Caesar running strong something tells me my presumption about age is wrong. RDF and I finally reached the junction at Sitio Balabag where the Aid Station 2 at the 8th kilometers of the race was situated. RDF took this as a cue to relieve himself of his stomach trouble. Sandy and Ria passed us by followed by others. After some time without seeing other runners passing us while RDF still taking his sweet time relieving himself, it became apparent that we were the last couple of runners left. I try to thinks that since there were already a couple of runners returning from the U-turn and were passing by the Aid Station 2, the summit was probably close by and even with us lagging behind we could still finish the race way before lunchtime. I calculated that the remaining distance to the summit was roughly 3.5 to 4 kilometers. As soon as RDF was back on the race we were again hitting the road. This time I tried to move a bit faster until a gap began to form between RDF and I. I was thinking that he might have already recovered enough to catch up. I caught up with Sandy on the uphill leading to the campsites and number of peaks of Mt. Batulao. Along the way there were excursionists plying the trail. Many of them were pretty much obvious not a regular mountaineers. Proof that Mt. Batulao in spite of its being nestled at 811 MASL and had previous reports of climbers having died on the trail, Mt. Batulao is really climbable by any novice mountaineers.

 

One moment I was just looking up at the other runners that had reached other peaks feeling somehow disheartened of the imagined distance still had to take but after a couple of moment I’m already there now looking down at the ones behind me below while those ahead of me once again occupy another peak. I soon reached the Peak 12 where the event’s U-turn was located. I was given a bag tag but unlike in Pico De Loro 42 run event by Conquer there was no one from the organizers to take the participants’ photograph. I stayed at the summit only for a couple of minutes just to eat my provisions but as soon as Sandy was ready to leave we climbed down the peak quite eager to catch up the little stragglers ahead of us. I lost Sandy when she fell back after stopping by in one of the huts selling drinks while I surged ahead on the downhill trying to impress the excursionists who let me pass by. I reached the 15 km where Aid Station 2 was located. After the refreshments I headed to Sitio Patliw. Along the way I saw a straggler that turned out to be Emerson. After the Aid Station 4 kilometers after Balabag I finally caught up Emerson and then a little later Leo the financial analyst joined us. At around less than 2 kilometers left of the race while we were resting at a bridge another runner made an appearance. A marshal then told that two more uphill left to tackle before we could finally say we conquered this race. On the last uphill, which was a concrete one Leo and Emerson decided to take another rest. After the uphill I pulled ahead to finished the race with a time of 5 hours and 57 minutes 153rd out of 173 runners.

 

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OSIM Sundown Marathon: My Second Singapore Sojourn

My setting foot in Singapore as a participant of OSIM Sundown Marathon last May 27, 2016 was like the first time man set foot on the moon. I felt overwhelmed, awed and excited since this was my farthest destination reached due to participating run event. What could possibly spoil this momentous opportunity for me? For one thing when I arrived in Singapore a day earlier of the event, I spent most of my day walking. I was searching for the race event venue which was at F1 Pit Building. I could not find the place in any Singapore map I looked until I chance upon the place after going around the Marina Bay area of Singapore and drifted towards the huge ferris wheel where there seem to be something being prepared. This ferris wheel called Singapore Flyer was a more prominent landmark and could have been more effective if this was mentioned along with the F1 Pit Building which I learned was actually referring to the Formula 1 racing car circuit, “duh”, but might not be familiar to some foreigner like me. Even in the official race map the symbol of the ferris wheel was the one used to indicate the start and finish of the event not a race circuit symbol. As a result on the day of the marathon itself, which was on the 29th of May, minutes before gun start 37 minutes after midnight, I was actually feeling tired already. I did not regret the walking though. When I first came to Singapore 14 years ago I was only confined to the Queens Street, Victoria Street, Raffles Landing Site and Orchard Road. In my current search for the race event venue I was able to see a lot of sites. Along the Marina area there were the popular tourist attraction Merlion Statue near Fullerton Road. Then the following: Esplanade Theater on the Bay, Art and Science Museum, Garden By The Bay and Sands. I was able to walk through a lot of shopping malls and hotels such as Conrad International Centennial, Centennial Tower, Millenial Walk, Marina Mandarin, Suntec City, Marina Square and Raffles City. While I found myself in the familiar area of Fort Canning Park I tried to seek out for the MPH bookstore, which use to be ensconced around Armenian Street but instead got lost along the parallel streets and concluded that it might had been replaced already by a café or restaurant which I couldn’t place seeing before. Upon returning to my hotel along Beach Road I figured I can’t go walking to the race venue passing all the above sites so I tried to seek a much easier route and found the left shoulder of Ophir Fly-over. Never mind that it was actually a bike lane and a sign with a symbol of a walking man with slash across it might mean no pedestrian I still used it to make it to the venue in about 10 minutes. Finally, I explored the Arab Street, which was just in front of my hotel and saw the Sultan’s Mosque along Bussorah Street. All these walking were very enriching for me.

 

When my wave finally was released after a 939 second delay from the containment area at 12:37 am I could not accelerate beyond the fast walk I was making. It was good thing though that the path the runners were taking was actually bit narrower for the 5,600 + runners. So, I was not the only one that had resorted to walking at this early juncture of the race. At the 3rd kilometers we were climbing the Benjamin Sheares Flyover. Along this portion I saw a runner wearing a Team Cabalen Jersey and I assumed immediately that a running acquaintance of mine, Noel maybe close by. I approached the runner and told him casually that it was like running the Kalayaan Bridge all over referring to our climb of Sheares Flyover. Kalayaan Bridge is the bridge that connects BGC, Taguig with Makati, which in many run events in Manila usually cross. He must have been surprised but he didn’t show it. Then asked him about where Noel was. He told me he was up ahead. So, I tried to dash ahead. By this time I had gain a certain degree of stamina and was no longer struggling with the slight pained chest I initially was feeling at the start of the run. The downhill slope of the flyover was a lot steeper.   I espied another runner wearing the luminous orange edition of The Bull Run jersey an indication he was probably another Pinoy. Actually at the containment area at the F1 Pit I saw a runner wearing the Rizal Mountain Run jersey talking to another runner but I couldn’t hear whether they were talking in Filipino. Trying to listen in to conversation to determine whether they were Filipino became a sort of pastime for me during the run to keep my mind occupied and ignore the hot and humid temperature during the duration of the run.

 

At the 6th kilometer we found ourselves heading the direction of Changi via East Coast Parkway we turned left to Fort Road and then right along the ECP Service Road. Soon we were entering Katong Park and were running along the much narrower path near the coast heading towards our U-turn at National Sailing Resort and Country Club after a Lagoon. I noticed that the hydration we managed to stop by about every 3.5 kilometers intervals served warm water. This occasion is when you suddenly began to appreciate the run events of Rio Dela Cruz which does not fail to have ice to cool the water they serve in spite of complaint that his race were getting expensive and flawed here and there. This portion of the run which almost where the 18th kilometer of the race was spent was somewhat boring. Although you got a animated young marshals egging runners to go on in their almost unrecognizable English you also get a glimpse of the coast but there was not much to see since its night time except sometimes the other faster runners ahead running the parallel path who were already returning or the much slower paced runners whom you were bumping along after you reach a u-turn. The path as I mentioned was narrower so you either go along with the slower runner or if you try to run faster you will soon hit a portion that you will have to weave your way around other runners and thus slows you down as well. No one was actually following the early announcement that slower runner occupy the right side so that faster runner can pass at the left. One lady runner reprimanded me for not taking the right side when she was passing me. I don’t know though if I was the only one she barked at.

 

Initially I thought I was slow with my 8 minutes per kilometers but I soon caught up with the 6 hours pacers and for a moment was keeping pace with them. I wanted to finish about that time or earlier so that I would have enough time for the buffet breakfast at the hotel before I checked out and try to get to the airport by 9:00 am since my flight was scheduled at 10:30 am. But soon I couldn’t hang on with the pacers and was falling behind them. Upon returning after the U-turn I noticed there were a lot of runners who were walking. I thought only in the Philippines where there were a lot of walkers. I got this impression that in other countries most of the participants were averaging 4 to 5 hours in finishing marathon. In one study I saw posted in Facebook that in spite of the number of marathon held in the Philippines the Filipinos were supposedly the slowest marathon runners averaging 6 to 6 and a half in finishing a full marathon. Now I know the Filipino was no different from the runners I was seeing in OSIM Sundown Marathon. After exiting the Katong Park we hit upon the road that kind of remind me of the J. Diokno Boulevard, which was the road near SM Mall of Asia that crosses a bridge heading towards the Senate Building only the one we were running on was much longer while J. Diokno Boulevard was about a little less than 2 kilometers. While running along Diokno Boulevard ahead you can see the ferris wheel near Boom Na Boom also much like the one that I saw on the way back towards the Singapore Flyer. We exited the ECP at the 29th kilometers and were soon crossing the Marina Bay Golf Course which was literally since they laid a plank over the lawn portion of the golf course. We hit upon the path lying below a fly-over and were heading towards the Marina area. Across the bay, which kind of remind me of Escolta, you can see the Singapore Flyer, Esplanade, Sands and Art and Science Museum, almost within reach but the remaining kilometers does not agree with. This tells you that although the finish line seems near the way to get across was farther. I looked ahead and notice that we will probably cross what at that point appeared to me a bridge that kind of remind me of Del Pan Bridge. But upon arriving at that point it was the Marina Reservoir, marking the 37th kilometers. Food was being given around which was timely since I was already feeling hungry and empty already. After crossing it we were heading to the Marina Barrage. It was a circular uphill path and upon reaching to top there’s the breath taking view of the sea and the city behind. Upon descending we hit the road leading to the Garden By The Bay. At this point rain began to pelt but it was just to douse us for it soon faded away leaving behind what now became familiar hot and humid air we been having the whole time. We were down to about 4 more kilometers before finishing the race. The sun had come up and I was pretty much sure of my skipping breakfast. I hit Bayfront Avenue Bridge and then The Float. 500 meters more to go so I gave my all and dashed for a strong finish. Photographers were firing shot as I approached the finish arch. I finished the race with a time of 6:35 and ranked 3652 from the 5336 other runners 43% of which were foreigners. Running the OSIM Sundown Marathon was not as I imagined it would be. I wanted to get intimately familiar with Singapore through its streets but the route did not brought me to the other part of Singapore like its busy commercial streets and other place of interest. Maybe it was because it was dark when I ran. I thought maybe the Standard Charter Marathon would be much promising. At least now I know I might still be going back to Singapore for another run.