Three Trail Runs Tales

Since I started running the numbers of trail run events I had joined are as follows. In 2011 I had only one and the distance was 10k. In 2012 I figured in 6 trail run events. Then in 2013 I had 7 with 42 kilometer distance as the farthest distance ran. By 2014 I joined 10 events 3 of which were 42 kilometer distance. In 2015 I had 7 trail runs with 1 a 50 kilometer distance event successfully accomplished. Last year 1 had 6 with 1 50 kilometer distance done. I easily get sprained and slipped along the path without mercy which led me to limit my participations on trail running. However, I am still dreaming of a comeback in the event Pilipinas Akyathlon, which I DNF in 2014 or experience Jonel Mendoza’s Mt. Ugo Trail Run.

 

At the first quarter of 2017 I managed to figure in three trail run events. The first one was the Conquer’s 3rd Tarak Ridge 25 that happened last January 15, 2017 at Mariveles, Bataan. I was not able to join this event last year because at the time this event was held I was at the other side of Mariveles Bay in Corregidor running in the Corregidor International Half Marathon. Although it was my first time to run at Tarak Ridge, it was not my first time to visit it. Way back in 2010 I had climbed Tarak Ridge’s summit with the UST Mountaineering Club. I could not forget my encounter with the strong winds at the campsite that toppled my tent in the evening.

 

“During the night when the wind was roaring mightily it was bending the tent’s pole too close for my comfort, it was threatening to topple my tent, but I stubbornly chose to remain thinking it would withstand the brunt of the attack. Then suddenly the tent’s walls tore and exposed the outside. I saw the stars and was grateful it was not raining as it had the previous year’s climb in Tarak. I persisted to remain. But knowing when to call it quits is likewise important. A companion came to may aid and advised me to transfer to another tent. I would have stayed on if it were not until a pole finally gave in and snapped. As if stating the obvious the flysheet broke free of the top tent and almost flew away. I finally relented. I picked up my things and transfer to a much warmer and sturdier tent and got the sleep I couldn’t have while I hang on to my precious pride.”

 

 

In TR25 our journey started at Alas-Asin Elementary School. After the gun start the 196 participants run around the perimeter of the school before heading off to Roman Highway and crossed it to get to Waling-Waling Street that led to the dirt road. The road took us to Grafane Farm. The first aid station was at about the 3rd kilometer of the race. On the way to this AS runners passed by the house of Aling Cording who monitors hikers. After this AS runners proceed until they get to a junction in which runners were instructed to choose the left path. At about 8th or 9th kilometer of the route located was the Papaya River. The Papaya River was actually the 2nd AS. I failed to refill my hydration bottle with its spring water thinking there would still be hydration along the way. This was a mistake because after I ran out of water I couldn’t get any refill until I am once again around this area, which was after about 7 kilometers.

 

In this race I had my Salomon Wing Pro 2 break in but it was I that actually almost got broken as the shoes seemed not fitting well with my feet. When I purchased this pair I failed to follow the rule in purchasing trail running shoes to choose one size bigger. My toes were pressed hard against the toe box of the shoes and hurts every time my shoes hit on something, which happened all throughout the race. I was also struggling with the shoes’ traction as I find myself in several occasions almost slipping. I had no choice but to move slower and was probably not further away from the sweeper. I reached the river with lots of huge boulders strewn along the stream. I recall all of the sudden the ones I encountered at North Face 100 in Nuvali-Tagaytay-Batangas that had similar feature in the 20th kilometers. I had trekking poles then that help me kept my balance while stepping on the boulders. At TR25, I was falling into the water for stepping on loose rocks or slipping among those that were wet and had gone slippery. I ended up crawling on both my hands from one boulder to the next boulder like a spider. I was sure I wouldn’t be reaching the finish line before the cut off time with the rate I was going. But as soon as I reached the waterfall, which served as the U-turn I felt all of a sudden re-energized. At that time I just missed the all female group of runners of Chie whom I first met at Sagada Marathon and then next seen at Miyamit Falls 42. She was also at Batolusong last year but I didn’t saw her. Instead all attentions were focused on her friend Mariah whom everyone came to call her as Radar Babe after her photo taken at the Radar Station got posted at Facebook. Not long after I was able to catch up with Mariah who had fallen behind her friends. Together we climbed the steepest portion of the race that required the runners to use rope. This was not yet the summit. Tarak Ridge is actually listed as a major climb with a trail class of 3 and a 4/9 difficulty. Its summit lies at 1,130 MASL.

 

It turned out that Mariah had also ran out of water and therefore was asking each marshal we chance upon for some. But none could provide us. After we got our bag tag at the summit I went ahead of Mariah. As I was heading down at the other side of the summit, I noticed that there were even more excursionists than I saw earlier either on their way to the summit or were just coming down from it. Before places like Tarak Ridge were accessible only to Mountaineers now anyone was hitting summit after summit as tour operators began opening hiking tours to anyone interested to scale mountains without the benefit of undergoing Basic Mountaineering Course or joining Mountaineering Clubs. As a result just as in Pico De Loro, in Mt. Ulap and Pulag the trail were becoming worn out and damage. Seeing that I was being watched by some of the excursionists I tried to make an appearance that I am quite good at what I was doing. I tried to run downhill and managed to do it quite fast. It was good thing I did not made any misstep or I would have looked terribly bad. I saw one of the excursionists lugging along a cold bottle of coca cola. I wanted so bad to ask for a drink but pride prevented me I decided instead to just move on hoping at the campsite there would be marshal with hydration. Unfortunately I still encountered marshal that had nothing to give me. Out of desperation I finally asked a father and kids hiker for a couple of swig of their water. I then proceeded to run along passing by groups of hikers along the way. Initially I thought I would not anymore catch upon other runners but just after Papaya River I passed by about 4 runners resting. I was sure I had seen a couple ahead. The route going back soon became lonely as I could not see either excursionists or other runners ahead. In fact even the orange ribbon marking the route became sparse that I thought just as in Pico De Loro I got lost again. I had to double-check the path I had taken trying to see if I missed a marker. I was becoming worried because I was expecting at least some of the excursionists I passed by would have reached my location by now unless they have taken another route. I had forgotten about checking the ground for any sign of intervention. That was when I saw the stacked rocks which act as markers as well. I stacked up additional rocks on the previous path I had taken to make sure the other runners would see the markers as well.

 

I finally reached Aling Cording’s place and was drinking coconut juice when I was told that there were just 3 kilometers ahead I just might make it yet to the finish line before the cut off time. I almost forgot about the cut off. So I dashed away from the Aid Station and tried to run all the way. But I couldn’t of course but still I was making some time. Upon hitting concrete wall I was seeing again a couple of runners that I eventually overtook since they were walking. I finished the 25 kilometer run with a time of 8 hours and 36 minutes and was 3rd to the last who made it within cut off time. The last one was Mariah while 14 other finished beyond cut off time.

 

The next trail run event was the Braveheart DBB Uphill Challenge held February 12, 2017 at Brg. Pinugay, Baras, Rizal. The event which was organized by Rayman De los Angeles was supposedly for trail running newbie. The category I participated was the 11k. The raced started at Check Dam Sitio San Roque, which was already the foot of Susong Dalaga or Mt. Tagapo. Runners negotiated the concrete road that had already inaugurated the uphill. The road forked to a 3.5 kilometers trail. Around the 2.5 kilometers of the race was the first Aid Station that served hopia and bottled apple juice drink. Although I started slow I was abled to overtake lots of runners except for the one legged runner Renson in spite of almost running abreast with him at the uphill. The view of Talim Island was at my right side when I was nearing the U-turn portion. Then after the U-turn I race downhill before hitting the rolling portion which was part of the Mt. Batolusong Rockstar event of DBB I participated last year. This portion of the trail highlighted the view of the mountain locked Sierra Madre. From this point downhill ensued until the previous AS which now acts as the last AS. I did not realized it that I had almost already completed the race and on my way down to the last 3.5 kilometers to the finish line. I had already lost my steam but still managed to pursue the remaining kilometers quite decently. I don’t know the time of my finish and my rank for until the time I published this the result had not been posted.

 

The third trail event I joined was the MGM Mt. Sembrano Mountain Run that was held March 12, 2017 at Barangay Malaya, Pililia, Rizal. I was registered under the 15 km category whose gun start was at 6:00 am. The other category was the 32 km whose gun start was at 5:00 am. I thought that I was destined once again to miss this event due to series of unfortunate events. On the way to Pililia, Rizal the service shuttle whose driver was not familiar with the event venue took a wrong turn and was heading for Mabitac, Laguna. It was quite a while before the driver could be convinced to turn around and double back. We had already wasted a lot of time and the three passengers who were running in the 32 km category were quite worried that they would not make it in time for the gun start. Then the kid that a couple brought along the trip threw up inside the vehicle. The stench of the puke that pervaded inside the vehicle got my stomach almost turning as well. I wanted to forget about the race and just get off the vehicle to do LSD (long slow distance run) or walk to where ever we were suppose to be heading. I was guessing we were currently plying along the route that was used in the event Rizal to Laguna 50k Ultramarathon, which I had not yet tried before. However, I prevented myself from making another rash decision and stayed on the vehicle until we eventually found our way to the event venue with still enough time to prepare.

 

Then I learned that there was a gear check to be conducted which I was not aware of before the race because I did not read the posts from the event FB site. Without these gears runners would not be allowed to proceed. I thought I am done with the event for the day for not having brought along the gears required. For the 32km the gear included: whistle, trail food, headlamp, hydration vest with at least a liter of water and first aid kit. Thankfully for the 15 km runners the only requirements were hydration vest and a whistle. The whistle I managed to produce was courtesy of Mang Ruel the Mangyan Runner whom I met the previous week at the Corregidor Marathon. He happened to have a spare and gave me one. This whistle was eventually also borrowed from me by two other runners.

 

It only took me this year to join this event due to mostly conflict in schedule. I learned from those who ran in this event before that this event was a bit challenging even its lower distance category. The mere fact that there were many elite runners currently signed up in the 32k category of this event show that they were very much challenged to tame this route. I opted for the lower distance just so I can get a taste of summiting Mt. Sembrano, which I have not yet climbed before. Mt. Sembrano, which highest point the South Peak reached 745 meters is considered minor climb with a difficulty of 3/9. Yet according to the story I was told, in the previous event many elite runners like Bald Runner himself got lost along the trail.   Among those running in the 32km were Salomon’s Majo, Magina, the one-legged Renson, Mangyan Runner, Juden and Seannah Swift the two latter mentioned were more often runs on road race. While in the 15 km were Dhicky, Tatay Ceasar, Tatay Crispin, Jake who is gunning for a grand slam. Arel whom I kept on meeting in many of trail run event was not running this time and instead was acting as photographer of the event. Ria who I met at Sagada Marathon with Jake was not also running. There were a lot of newbies in the race who probably first started with the MGM Braveheart event and might not at all quite aware what to expect in this event.

 

The race started from the Barangay Hall of Malaya, Pililia, Rizal with a 5 kilometers uphill starting with a concrete road then transitioned to unpaved road then to a more steeper climb that had runners using all of their limbs to reach higher then as the summit nears the terrain changes into a cogon grass covered path. I brought along a trekking pole, which greatly helped me a lot deal with the uphill. Being a better experienced I managed to overtake a lot of the newbies who were still not used to climbing steep uphill. Upon reaching the end of the climb the view offered a way to forget how exhaustive the climb had been. From this location one could see the Laguna Lake and windmills of Bugarin in the east. I then took the rolling cogon covered ridge heading for the North Peak which was I think the 6th kilometer of the race before getting to the U-turn which I think was at the 8th kilometers. I tried to run faster but I find the cogon-covered path sometime slippery for my Salomon Wing Pro so I had to slow down especially on downhill. After the U-turn runners run back towards the North Peak in order to get to the higher South Peak. Along the way Active Pinas photographer and BDM 102 finisher, E.M. Soquensa made sure I got a better souvenir of this run with plenty of photo of me climbing up. After the summit with was a treacherous downhill along tree line and rocky path. I actually got myself stepping on a loose rock that got my right foot sprained but I still managed to run with it to the finish line. I ended up finishing 123 out of 333 with a time of 3:57:42.

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Messing With The Maddening Muddy Mountain Trail of MGM’s DBB Mountain Rockstar Trail Run 2016

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.

Triumphant Taking Of The Taal Volcano Island 360 25k Trail Run

 

If there was one welcome development arose from Prince Multi Sports Event, Inc.’ penchant to change events schedule on short notice, that was that I finally got a chance to participate at the 3rd Taal Volcano Island 360 25k Trail Challenge after missing it for 2 years. This was at the expense of giving away my slot at GNC Run though and perhaps to the dismay of some PMSEI patrons who backed out from joining the run due to other conflicts with schedules the change had wrought. Smarting from the previous year’s experience of having 16 DNF from its 128 participants, PMSEI change the event’s schedule from its original May 1, 2016 to its current schedule of July 3, 2016 in consideration that the extreme hot temperature of May might prove to be too much for the participants to take. It turn out this decision was sound since this year only 2 from the 72 participants had DNF. As a result of the former, Rolly who DNF last year, was able to exact vengeance with his conquering the trail. While there were like Jake on his third year and Yuri on his second returned to contend with a much more benign temperature Taal Volcano island in their love to run around the trail of the country’s smallest and 2nd most active volcano.

 

From the wharf fronting the public market of Talisay, Batangas, we were ferried to the volcano island via a 25 minutes boat ride on an outrigger. We docked in front of the Tourism Office and waited for the 7:00 am gun start. Among the participants who were familiar with me joining the event were Omeng, Jake, Joni and Jay. Another worth mentioning participant was the one-legged Renson running on crutches whom I saw action at the 2nd Conquer Jagged Peak. Upon gun start runners headed off towards Taal volcano or Mt. Taboro’s famous crater located 2.5 kilometers from the Starting area via the Daang Kastila. Upon hitting the uphill I felt a sting of pain impinging in my chest area. I had to resort to walking while pondering whether this was already a sign that I am heading off to an early retirement from running. Renson the one legged runner passed me by as I confront the uphill perspiring from the effort. I was pretty sure I would end up the last person to finish the race. Aside from seeing occasional spurt of sulphuric mist emerging from the fissure along the path, the route to the crater of Mt. Tabaro had been planted with Stations of the Cross. This was probably to further increase tourist influx by adding another reason for visiting Mt. Tabaro other than viewing its crater by turning the place as a possible religious destination for devotees especially on Lenten season. Currently, tourists on horseback were given additional treat by witnessing runners assaulting to and from the viewing deck. While their presence was an added obstacle for runners to deal with since the path trod by runners was not wide enough to allow for two-way traffic to occur.

 

Upon reaching the view deck I had myself posing in front of a photographer whom I thought was part of the organizer’s staff. The crater at the time I was photographed was covered with mist and therefore the view of 2 kilometers wide sulphur high lake and the island called Vulcan Point was obscured from the view. From the literatures I read online the whole island has about 47 different overlapping cones and craters. But the crater of Mt. Tabaro, which tourist visit is the active one having had 33 historically recorded explosions. Mt. Tabaro is also considered one of the lowest volcanoes in the world. On my way down, I saw I was not after all the last runner. There were still at least around 8 more I could see trailing behind me. At this point the pain that initially slowed me down had dissipated and I was able to run the downhill as I try to chase to runners ahead of me. I never got to come close the two I was chasing. The first Aid Station was at the 5th kilometers, which was also a junction directing runners to turn left towards the town occupying the fringes of the 23 square kilometer island. Prince instructed the runners not to veer beyond 100 meters away from the sight of the sea at the right side to avoid being led back to the crater.  Some children met me along the way wit high five. The path was a mixture of cemented portion and then dirt road. To avoid getting lost I followed one of the crew of ABS-CBN News on horseback who was trying to meet up with the cameraman who went ahead at the Aid Station at the 7.5 kilometers. Although I initially had my pace upped eventually I resorted to brisk walking since I was still able to catch up with the other runners on this pace. Soon a couple of runners coming from behind me paced along with me. They were coming from a wrong turn taken and doubled back. We reached the 7.5th kilometer where the ABS-CBN camera was shooting the scene. There were around ten of us converging at this AS. This further galvanized my idea that I don’t have to exhaust so much effort in running. From the AS instead of running along the base of Binintiang Malaki, the foliage covered volcano people see jutting up the island from Talisay, we were directed towards a wooded trail to get to the other side of the island. Initially, we encountered along the trail a fork that had us guessing which path to take. After walking back to the AS I asked the marshal which road to take and I was told to take the left one. The other trail probably led to the summit of the extinct Binintiang Malaki, which last erupted in 1715. The path we took soon brought us up to an elevated area, which was worrying us whether we did indeed took the proper route. Our apprehension finally was doused when we caught sight of the sea again. After descending runners once again were running along the beach. At this point we thinned out as the other runners sprinted ahead while I was left tagging along a pair of runners whom I first saw at the shuttle service pick up area in Makati.

 

When we reached the 10th kilometer of the route where another Aid Station was situated there were other runners resting and taking refreshments. I took this opportunity to establish some distance from the other runners. I soon entered a path that led me away from the sight of the beach and into a bit of interior of the island. It did not dawn to me the taller mountain I saw somewhere in front of me was probably the crater of the 311 meters high Mt. Taboro from another side. Once again I was worried that I might have taken the wrong turn since I was just simply following established pathway and sometime relied on the people I asked where the other runners ahead had passed. The path soon led me back along the beach and into the next Aid Station, which was the 12.5th kilometer of the route. At this Aid Station I learned that the one legged Renson was ahead of me. Although, I didn’t see anyone behind me, I was expecting there were other runners close by at my tail. In fact, I thought I had seen the couple I was tagging along earlier before I got to the current AS. The instruction given me was to follow the yellow ribbons tied on grasses and trees marking the path. The yellow ribbons initially were easily seen, but pretty soon I was being led to a sandy path that even with gaiters sands still found its way inside my shoes. The sun was already beaming angrily but not as ferocious as I imagine it might had been for those who braved the first two leg of this event. I came to a portion where the landscape seemed to resemble that of the surface of Mars minus the reddish colored environment. I regretted that I did not brought with me a camera to capture the scene, which was pretty much outlandish. Like the impression left by Neil Armstrong at the surface of the moon, I saw the shoe impressions left by other runners ahead of me. I took to following these on occasions I can’t find the yellow ribbons. Then I got to a portion whose ground was more flat and solid punctured by sparse growth of taller grasses, I imagined it the savanna that the Homo-Erectus had to cross to look for meal. The promised yellow ribbons were even harder to find and more distant from one another. I soon reached another wooded area. It was even harder to find the yellow ribbons, which had blended with the foliage. I had to rely on impressions of the soles of shoes against the ground to lead me to the right path. I eventually reached the 15th kilometer where another Aid Station was located. This time I was instructed to climb the uphill but veered towards the right. When I tried to follow as instructed I kept heading towards the direction where no visible trail could be found. Instead end up among the bushes with the long thorns of Aroma plants prickling the sole of my shoes. The previous year there were a lot of runners that got lost in this area because there were no markers along the way. They ended up reaching the other side of Mt. Tabaro. I almost given up and was about to climb down to ask the marshal at the previous AS for directions when I noticed a waving flag behind the bushes. This led to another flag and before long I was being led toward downhill following the fine black sand that I assumed to be previous lava flow that was part of the 1965 eruption.

 

At the end of this trail was the shoreline again. Running along this portion kind of remind me the beach run at Salomon’s Anvaya Cove leg and last 3 kilometers of the Ku Ika Ika Run in La Union. The sand was soft and difficult to run on so I tried to run along the portion closer to the water where I thought the sand was more compact. It worked in some portion. I notice among the impressions left by other runners ahead of me were barefoot marks. I remember one of the runners was running the whole route barefooted. Further at the bent perhaps 2 kilometers ahead I saw an almost silhouette of another runner which I guessed was Omeng. He soon disappeared around the bend. Along the coast I noticed a boat with Coast Guard probably watching over the runners. I soon entered a barangay and in one of the shed I chance upon three runners resting. Gaudelia the female runner among the three asked me if I had seen Renson along the way. Apparently, I passed him by without me seeing him. The other runner whose name I did not caught bolted out while the remaining three of us rested. Soon another runner Jay whom I saw running at the event 2nd Puerto Galera Ultramarathon a week ago, caught up with us. He told us that he was initially at the front probably 13th until he got lost along the way. It was only after more than an hour when he finally found his way back to the path that led to the peopled area of San Nicholas. The four of us ran together seeking the AS at the 17.5 kilometer. When we found it we were rewarded with soda and some ice. The next AS which was supposedly the 20th kilometers turned out to be our longest 2.5 kilometers interval. With the distance we thought we had already covered we thought that probably there was no more AS and that the finish line would be the next stop that we would find. But whenever we asked the people how much further to the finish area we were told that we hadn’t gone halfway yet. When we reached the AS at what the tarpaulin says the 20th kilometers we got cold water waiting for us. We felt quite a bit disappointed that in spite of the perceived length we covered this was just the 20th kilometers. At this point Jay went ahead leaving Sidney, Gaudelia and I behind. Once again we felt the distance to the next AS quite distant. When we reached the 22.5 kilometers we were told by the marshal manning the post that the finish area was just about 20 minutes trek. By the time we saw the wharf in front of the Tourism Office many of the participants were already boarding the outriggers and where leaving the island. I finished the race 44th from the 72 participants with a time of 5 hours and 43 minutes. 28 runners were behind me in spite of my walking most of the way. Renson came 53rd. Omeng was just ahead of me by a couple of minutes. The couple I ran along for a while whom I thought was following me close by were the two participants who DNF the race. But the video they took along the way superbly described the journey each of the finishers took. Taal Volcano was my second crater to run on a trail event. The first one was Mt. Pinatubo.

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.

 

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.

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.

 

Sagada Marathon Redux

While most of my running friends were busy with their last minute preparation for their probably most challenging ultramarathon, The Bataan Death March 102, slated on January 30, 2016, I was heading up to Sagada for the event, Sagada Marathon. Almost year ago I ran (and eventually wrote about it) 42k in Sagada at Front Runners Magazine’s event, Sagada Circuit Marathon. Unfortunately after running for about 9 hours I along with 6 other runners had reached only the 34th kilometers of the race a little over 2:00pm. It was not however, enough to beat the cut-off time for runners to be in this area. As a result we were no longer allowed to continue with the race whose last remaining 8 kilometers still entailed runners to run towards the 1937 MASL Mt. Ampacao Saddle before heading off to the finish line. Vowing redemption, I could not anymore wait for Front Runner Magazine’s event which may or may not happen this year, so I did the next best thing, I booked a slot at Team Malaya’s 3rd Sagada Marathon now leveled up to mountain trail run. The 2 previous incarnations of Sagada Marathon, which was predominantly a road run was part of the Cordillera Series that was running for 3 years now. Usually the Sagada Marathon was the kick off event to the string of marathon events under the Cordillera Series. I was part of the first batch but I missed running the Sagada leg. I could not run in the following year’s Sagada Marathon due to conflict in schedule. It was as if it was really my destiny to run in Sagada since Front Runner Magazine came out with its own event there.

 

Initially I was not fazed with the change Sagada Marathon underwent this year after all I had ran in at least three full marathons of the Cordillera series that featured mountain trails and came out a victor in each. However, after talking with some of the current participants and staff of the race who happened to be acquainted with the Meldwyn Bauding, who prepared the route for this year’s Sagada Marathon, I began to entertain thoughts that I might just be coming home again with another DNF wound. The last Kibungan Marathon’s route that was designed by Melwyn was so challenging that even the most seasoned trail runners that had ran Team Malaya’s offering struggled to conquer the race. Would Sagada Marathon turn out to be another experimental laboratory in the art of trail running torture? With an aim of getting back to Manila in time for my Monday morning teaching class, I booked a shuttle service that would leave Sagada Sunday afternoon at 5:00pm. So, if ever I find myself still in the neck of the woods at around 2pm I would not think twice in declaring myself DNF just so I could get back to the Starting area in time to change clothing, rest until we set off for Manila. This arrangement worked quite well with my co-passengers for the shuttle service all of them were registered in the 21k category and would have been done with their run way before my self imposed cut-off time.   In this race I picked up new friends who were my co-passenger at the shuttle. They were Ria, Sandy, Jester, Jake, Beverly and Teejay whom I am already acquainted with through Facebook. Most of them were quite new to running much more trail running.

 

At 4:00 am runners were already gathered at Minnie Degawah Compound, Mabbay Poblacion near Mount Carmel Church about 300 meters from the Municipal Hall for the race briefing and breakfast. I noticed that there seem to be quite a number of turned out of participants this year than the previous legs that I had participated in. about 156 joined the 21k while 56 in the 42k category. At 5:00 am with still darkness hanging about the gun start was given. Runners headed out along a concrete paved road that soon led to an uphill dirt road. The first destination was Kiltepan where amidst crowd of tourists waiting for the sea of clouds to be visible a U-turn awaited runners. I heard that even at this early juncture of the race there were already runners who failed to locate the u-turn and got lost at the view deck. I suspected they just wanted to get a glimpse of the now famous site where Angelica Panganiban and JM De Guzman shouted out their angst in the movie, “That Thing Called Tadhana”.   In Front Runners Magazine’s event this was the 21st kilometers of the race. From Kiltepan runners ran downhill towards Petron Gas Station where near it was a road that ushered runners to the dirt path going to Malboro Country whose highest point reach 1,684 masl. On the way I got my foot landing badly and had sprained my right foot. I however, managed to shake it off and was soon running again. The other runner who earlier got also sprained continued to limp as I passed by him. In the previous Sagada Circuit Marathon in about this area my companions and I got lost in this trailed covered with fog. Soon we reach Marlboro Country area. As in Kiltepan, the area where sea of cloud also could be viewed many selfie taking and camera totting people both tourists and runners were amassing. Light was slowing making its appearance. I forego any opportunity to do “selfie” since I don’t want to use up the few remaining bars of my cellphone’s batteries and I was more determined to make it as far as I could before I could call in another DNF, so I just plodded along the path and into the next portion of the race route. When we ran in this area in Sagada Circuit Marathon it was close to midday and the sun was baring down on us with fury. Soon I was entering a wooded area that led to the place called Blue Soil. According to Teejay the blue hue of the rock was due to chemical reaction like copper sulfate, which becomes more pronounce after rain. From here more woods and trail until we got out into a concrete road which in Front Runners magazine’s event the area was Payag-ew the 29th kilometers while in the current race the 14th kilometers.

 

Due to landslide and road repair, the portion going to the Pongas Falls was no longer taken by runners instead took the concrete road that led to Sumaguing Cave entrance. This is unfortunate because this portion of the race may be another stunning place to see. Actually I thought this was the same falls we saw in Sagada Circuit Marathon but upon checking the one in Sagada Circuit Marathon was Bomod-ok Falls whose access was via crossing Aguid Rice Terraces. Farther at my left nestled in the mountain I could see the communication tower the next important landmark in the 42k race route, which seem to be so high and still so far away. Soon I saw once again the 34th kilometers of Front Runner Magazine’s Sagada Circuit Marathon located at Gaia Restaurant where we were declared DNF last year. This time I was moving pass it in order to reach the road that would take me to Mt. Ampacao Saddle or Tower Peak the one stop I never got to see close in Sagada Circuit Marathon. On the steep and quite exhausting uphill trail that ushered us towards the road to Tower Peak I was dogging the 58 year old, trekking pole bearing Roberto Ramos who no matter what I do to get pass by him I always end up behind him. Close by was another runner Allan Palomares who was also running abreast with Roberto. I momentarily lose the two runners in favor of another male runner who suddenly overtook me after a much faster female runner made a dash out of nowhere passing by me on the way into another wooded area. The race ribbons that we were following began to thin out and could not be located easier since the distance in between gapped wider. I heard the male runner ahead of me speaking with another runner on his cellphone. Apparently, the runner on the other line was originally ahead of us but now found lost along the trail. Soon Ramos and Palomares were again overtaking me. I initially thought that upon reaching the summit we would turn back to retrace our path until we got down to the concrete road again. But I was wrong. We did not actually reach the Tower but turned to the ridge opposite of the path leading to the Tower. The Tower completely faded away from our path and I was afraid that we might have taken a wrong turn or something. But we were relentless in following the red ribbon route markers which although at a certain time seem to have completely disappeared suddenly reveal itself at the most opportune moment. As soon as I caught up with Ramos we stopped to rest and admire the breathtaking view of other mountains and Sagada Town below. Other runners began to appear out of the woods and likewise stopped. One of the runners mentioned that we were just at the 21st kilometers, which I could not believe after all the effort I had done. There might be something wrong with the watch or something, I thought to myself. Although taking 4 hours to get to the first half of the marathon was not too far fetch and finishing the 2nd half in another 4 hours was still pretty much decent for me, I just can’t imagine how another 21 kilometers could fit in with the remainder of the route indicated in the race map. It became apparent that we were actually traversing another ridge that soon led downhill until finally I saw we were already at Lake Danum area and soon having refreshments at the Aid Station 3. I heard later from Arel another runner who ran in the 21k that there were those who got lost at Lake Danum area because there were no ribbons to indicate which direction to take. I and my two other companions were much luckier because I already had gotten to this area in Sagada Circuit Marathon and therefore I know the way out to the road where the Aid Station awaits. The next destination was the Langsayan Peak that lies at 1,950 masl. I figured this would probably be 4 kilometers hike to the summit. But somehow it didn’t seem to have taken that long to reach the summit and from there the marshal told us that we were just down to 10 kilometers before completing the whole course. I couldn’t believe it that I was going to get my redemption after all with a finish time that beat my other Cordillera Series. In fact we reached Aid Station 4 at Bangaan quite quicker again, that when we were told that we were at the last 2 kilometers of the race, Palomares could not agree because in his watch we were just at around 28 kilometers. The last portion of the route after the AS4 was not at all 2 kilometers but rather 6 kilometers. But even with this remaining kilometers left for us to accomplish this would just be only 34 kilometers total. It turned out due to the change in the race route the 42k distance was actually reduced by several kilometers. Therefore even though I came through the Finish line with a time of 7 hours and 36 minutes it was still not 42 kilometers. Of course I could argue that the missing 6 kilometers would easily be conquered within less than 2 hours (in Sagada circuit marathon it took me 9 hours to get to the 34th kilometers) still I felt the celebration was not complete. So, in spite of completing the 42k series of Cordillera Series I was still feeling short of the kind of redemption I sought. I however, was now hesitant if I will be back if Front Runner Magazine undertake another shot at Sagada Circuit Marathon.

 

Perhaps, not all race are meant to be completed in a manner like how it was done the first time. It’s the experience going through the process of getting that redemption should matter. The very reason one fell short the first time must not again be repeated and improve upon instead. If ever again one fell short the second time count the initial success garnered not the failure. Sometimes it is much better to continue falling short of finishing a coveted race than complete one and retire the whole sport after attaining that coveted race. Failure sometimes gives reason to keep on going while victor sometimes become a good reason for others to stop from going. I have another race event that I initially failed to finish but somehow successfully conquered the second time because the event was done in another venue. Now it is again returning to the venue where I failed. I want to come back and try again. TNF100 2016 Baguio-Benguet see you soon.