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.