As Metro Manila residents was stricken with the Pokemon Go virus I managed to rebound from my tough loss at TCU 105 with a successful 42k finish at the 40th National Milo Marathon Manila Leg a week later July 31, 2016. Finishing with buzzer beater a minute before the 6 hours cut off time was not the PR I was hoping for which was at least 5:45 hours if not faster. But never the less it was a good finish since some of my running acquaintances did not made it within the cut off time. Somehow in spite of the absence of the tormenting heat of sunlight and the race route already a repeat of most of Rio Dela Cruz’s events, the race still turned out pretty much harder for many of the participants.
A week after Milo Marathon on August 8, 2016 I thought my luck would tap out on once again when I participated in the 25k category of MGM Production’s DBB Mountain Rockstar Trail Run 2016 held at San Andres, Tanay, Rizal. At several juncture of the race I contemplated of quitting. I blame myself for once again dipping my toes in Tanay, Rizal’s trail when I kind of swore I won’t run trail again in Tanay after my PIMCO’s Nature Trail Discovery Run days had ran its course and experienced enough painful campaigns on its various terrains at different clime. But somehow my want to find out what sort of race Rayman “Dabobong” Delos Angeles organizes got the better of me, luring me to take another plunge in Tanay. After all if trail running newbie like Albert and the barefooted runner Elmar was signing up for this event which promised experiencing “pain that one would comeback for again and again” there must be nothing that I should be worrying about.
On the eve of the race event I did not check the weather forecast which would have clued me in on what to expect at the race especially when the race organizer had specifically informed the participants through the event’s page to bring raincoat. Southwest monsoon had brought in torrential rain early in the evening but my mind was still pretty much stuck on the vision of a warm sunny Sunday which had continuously prevailed over the past weeks in spite of a supposedly rainy season. I was also full of myself thinking that since I probably ran before in some portion of the race route, I thought I could finish the race at most within close to 6 hours and be home in time to celebrate my Mom’s birthday with a dinner with the whole family. It only occurred to me that maybe I should think about not going through with the race when upon arriving at the race venue there was drizzle and I thought about mud. All of a sudden snippets of memories of my trail running experience at Timberland, San Mateo, Rizal came rushing back to haunt me. It was my second take of the event, Merrell Adventure Run this time in the 21k category in time for my birthday. Some time during the course of the rainy trail race both soles of my shoes gave way due to the heavy mud. It was my very first DNF in my beginning running career.
The current race started at 5:15 am the Ynares Multi-Purpose Covered Court of Barangay San Andres, Tanay which was the same starting area of some of the previous PIMCO’s trail event. I remember my first time there it was cold rainy May I was shivering and wondering then if I made a big mistake in coming. Flash forward to the present. I told myself, “I survive that one that is why I am here now”. Among those whom I knew who were participating the 25k category were Emerson, Elmar, Norma, Jerard, Jorge, Megina, and Joe whom I did not actually saw but posted being there. The latter two were also at Milo Marathon. The one legged Renson was also there to test his mettle and to put to shame those of us who at a certain point wanted to give up. Among the 118 participants of 50k category who had their gun start earlier as we were parking our service shuttles were, DM, Batanguena Runner, Rickyrunner, Jonel and Daryll. The route started out just fine. Since I wasn’t feeling any chest compression I was able to keep up with the group well enough that I was not worried being among the last runners. We were running along the MGM trail where initially grass and rock featured the rolling terrain. The combination of cold temperature brought about by rain and the heat my body was producing my running goggles from the outside began to fog out, which everyone who saw it make it a point to tell me about. I responded by saying that kind of explained the zero visibility I was experiencing which I told them I thought was attributed to the sea of cloud coming down along the path. This seemed to have broken the ice on that cold dreary morning. In reality I was just seeing fine in spite of the moisture outside my glasses. Our real problem came when we began hitting the uphill where the path was so muddy and severely trampled upon it became so slippery. Foothold could not be established one had to create new ones along the edges of the path where there were sparse of shrubs, bamboo shoot or roots available. But sometimes even stepping on these ones doesn’t work. One had to pull one’s weigh with the trunks of some of the trees along the path instead just to move forward. Our progress was severely hampered and slowed down while our stamina began to deplete with the effort. I thought I had already gathered distance but in truth about an hour took me to accomplished just 3 kilometers. I remember the muddy course of 3rd Cavinti Trail Run but the mud there were rather clumpy and sticking on your shoes. Sometimes your foot sinks deep in some portion but still if you could manage to avoid the softer areas you could move forward faster. We reached a portion that was more leveled and open grassland where one could see mountains at the backdrop. By the time I reached the first Aid Station at Mapatag Plateau which has an elevation of 645masl my heart sank that our progress had only brought us to as little as a couple of kilometer what could have already brought us farther if this were paved road. Our destination was Rangyas peak which was nestled around at an elevation of 780 masl. More bouts with mud and slippery path were encountered along the way especially in the area called Bohoan where there were lots of bamboo grooves growing. Somewhere midway to our destination there was a gridlock of runners. Runners from the 12k had mistakenly followed the route of the 25k and when the mistake became apparent they were instructed to turn around towards their original detour. The runners from the 25k who were returning from Rangyas Peak had to wait for the 12k runners to make their turn about before they could resume with their trek. The slower runners from the 25k to which I was part of watched this commotion resolved itself before we could take our queue towards the direction of Rangyas Peak.
The route to Rangyas Peak kind of reminded me of the mossy forest I encountered at the trail event, Purgatory 30. Not that the current one had mossy forest, it was more of the dimly lit, cold wooded terrain that jolted the memories. Upon reaching a brightly lit opening I realized I already made it to the peak just as it was with Mt. Park at the end of the mossy forest. At the peak I saw Emerson who was about to go down already. He complained of cramps. I would soon over take him on my way down which kind of boosted my morale because Emerson with his previous training with trail should have been the much stronger runner than I am. However, he took a long hiatus from running and was just returning. He in fact DNF in the recent Milo Marathon. I actually first met him here at San Andres, Tanay along with another runner who was suffering an issue with his knee when the three of us participated in the first leg of the first Nature Trail Discovery Trail Run. Upon returning to the earlier Aid Station I believed the marshal there informed me that I just finished roughly 8.5 kilometers so far. If it weren’t for the downhill the weight of this news I might have thrown myself to the ground and tumbled all the way down to the next Aid Station located at Kay-ibon Falls.
The route to Kay-ibon was mostly downhill with lesser degree of slippery mud encountered. At the Aid Station there were 2 25k runner who already decided to retire from the race one was inquiring whether the leftward detour marked 12k would take him back to the start/finish area. The marshal was trying to convince him to continue still with the race but the runner had seem already made up his mind and told the marshal that even if he decided to continue he would not be able to make it within the cut off time. The other runner who was quitting was having a ball enjoying his fresh coconut while his lunch was being prepared. I suddenly got reminded of the time remaining before the cut off which was just 2 hours and I only covered a little more than 10.5 kilometers. I thought of joining the two runners more out of worry of being left behind by our shuttle service, which had advised us will leaves at 3:00 pm rather than the actual race cut off.
I eventually chose to take the route going to Mt. Susong Dalaga thinking I am in this race now more for sight-seeing rather than hopeful of making it to the finish line within the cut-off time. Several of the faster runner of the 25k where already heading back to the Kay-ibon Aid Station. We were not actually going up the Susong Dalaga which has an elevation of 780 masl, but rather was skirting around somewhere I thought to be the radar station that was being mentioned in the race route. Along the route a runner was sprawling along whom I thought was just resting. After the u-turn however, I passed by him once again still sitting. It turned out he got his leg injured and would be taken down later. Aside from some portion having slippery mud, the U-turn I passed by was no contest quite easier. I thought from here it was all downhill going towards the finish line. I could still make it to the finish line before cut-off after all. But then Emerson who emerged like phantom somewhere told me we were not out of the woods yet. The dreaded Radar Station was still ahead of us, I lost him somewhere after passing by another fork on the road when I attempted to urinate along the route. The 400 meter high mountain containing the Radar Station soon loomed like a Ziggurat in front of me and seemed so dauntingly high. I saw tiny colorful specks that turned out to be in runners in various levels of the mountain scaling it like the ancient Summerians. At the foot where an Aid Station was sitting I saw the single legged Renson who had just finished climbing the Radar Station having a drink of water. I soon took my place and started climbing the almost 90 degrees angled path. It was a lot easier actually climbing it than how it appeared first from below. Emerson was already heading down when I was nearing the summit. At the peak, Rutanginamo took photographs of those who made it on top and quickly brushed us off to go down immediately to avoid congesting the area. At this point 30 minutes remain before Cut-off. There were still actually a lot of other runners behind me including the more elderly Norma who told me was just simply enjoying the trail and probably the barefooted Elmar whom I haven’t seen whenever I come across the runners behind me after U-turns. I learn later from Cecile a shuttle service mate from Mindanao that he got injured and had also quitted the race. She herself quitted and was just waiting for pick up at the junction I earlier passed by before heading off to the Radar Station. The marshal at the junction directed me to the detour that led to the river strewn with different sizes of boulders. I caught up with Emerson eating. Before we left he sighed a prayer that the cut-off time be extended. We followed the river until the trail markers led us out of the river and into an area that had obviously been bulldozed. The mud here was thicker and when my foot sunk the mud threatened to suck off my shoes. We then pursued a route that used to be rocky path but now lying under mud. This path though was more forgiving and could be run with much less difficulty. At Duhatan Ridge, which has an elevation of 590 masl we caught up with Jorge and a lady company of his. This was the 19.6th kilometer of the race. Jorge seemed to be a little weak as he was just recovering from flu prior to the run. At this point I had no doubt I will finish this race whether within cut-off time or not. The marshal at the last AS was not telling us whether our effort was futile which was a good indication that cut-off time might indeed had been extended and all that was required of us was to reach the finish line. From there on there were no more surprises that awaited us. a few hundred meters to the finish line I saw my shuttle service still waiting for its occupants. I arrived at the finish line and was awarded with the wooden medal and other loots. I finished 195th out of the 235 participants. 12 did not finished in spite of the cut-off time had been waived. This was my baptism of fire at MGM Production’s event. I have tried to stay away from trail running but if I will be joining again just maybe I would find myself committing same mistake again of signing up with the other DBB offerings.