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.

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.