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.

What’s Eating Me At 85

Last July 12, 2015, after crossing the finish line at the 87th kilometer, which served as entrance to the covered basketball court beside the Municipal Hall of Infanta, Quezon, with a time of 17:30:40, I broke my 67 kilometer barrier. Rizal to Laguna to Quezon 85K Ultramarathon by Run Mania Promotion Philippines is currently the longest distance I have ever traveled on foot in a single take. With this accomplished the road to my first 100 kilometer run had been laid closer to its fulfillment.

At the time 200 plus runners took off from the town plaza of Pililia, Rizal at 10:05 pm another ultramarathon was also kicking off in Quezon City, the UP to UP 80k Ultramarathon by Prince Multi Sport which will have their participants running from UP Diliman in Quezon City to UP Los Banos in Laguna. I would have registered in this event if not for the conflict in schedule with R2L2Q. I however, preferred to join the latter since this had route that will have me touching down in Quezon which I have not set foot on foot at all.

From the town plaza we soon found ourselves running northward of Tanay-Pililia Road. I was a bit wary of the rain and cold air that might be brought in by the South West Monsoon or Habagat that was being intensified by a passing typhoon along the northern most tip of the Philippine Area of Responsibility or PAR. So, I wore long sleeves for protection against strong wind and cold evening. But the evening air turned out to be a bit warm and humid. At about 5 kilometers later we hit Tanay-Sampaloc Road. Prior to this day, I made a mistake of expecting that only the first 10 to 20 kilometers of the route were uphill. But in the briefing earlier, Race Director Eng. Pat Maranan bluntly told us that the route would be mostly uphill -or at least the first 50 kilometers. However, it was not just the uphill that we have to prepare ourselves of. Rather the path itself, which would be mostly dimly lit to not being lighted at all during the whole evening trek. This became apparent as soon as we found ourselves along Sampaloc Road. In the past I knew I had passed by along this route riding service shuttle and sometime public utility vehicle shuffling to and from the various trail run event I attended in Tanay. That evening somehow I felt lost and melancholic along the way. Burst of sound of some singing of videoke coming from some resorts nearby did not help lessen the feeling. After the 1st Aids Station at the 11th kilometer rain began to pelt. I brought out my waterproof poncho and put it on. But wearing it was a bit uncomfortable because it was too warm in it. A runner in raincoat and with an umbrella breezed pass by me.

I reached Marcos Highway and as soon as the rain stopped I disrobed my poncho and never again wore it all throughout the race even with the rain coming in again later. A few months earlier Run Mania had the Rizal to Laguna 50k Ultramarathon. I thought this was only a portion of the R2L2Q. I also thought that R2L2Q would pass by Mabitac, Siniloan and Famy, Laguna which would be an excellent opportunity to finally reach those portion of Laguna I haven’t had chance to reach through running before. But it turned out I made a mistake. R2L2Q would utilized a different route altogether. It would actually use some of the portion of the route called Marilaque which is actually about 120 kilometers beginning from Marikina near Katipunan Avenue then to Antipolo, Sumulong Highway, Masinag, Sierra Madre, Tanay, Sta. Maria, Laguna then finally to Infanta. The Marilaque is actually considered as one of the most picturesque highway in Luzon along with Halsema Highway in the Cordillera and Pan-Philippine Highway in Southern Luzon. Another race franchise, the Team Malaya was also organizing an ultramarathon covering the entire length of Marilaque come September or October this year. Of course R2L2Q would only use about 66 kilometers of Marcos with Pililia and Tanay route filling in for the 20 kilometers.

Without realizing it I soon passed by Camp Capinpin where Former President Erap Estrada was detained. Then not far after was the Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia where a giant size image of the Virgin Mother stands. But of course with all the darkness around I couldn’t catch a glimpse of it. The 2nd Aids Station lies at the 22nd kilometers around the boundary between Tanay and Laguna. At the Aid Station I inquired about my current ranking. I was told that I was probably at the 170th. From the Aid Station the road dipped downhill and when we reached the end of the downhill we were entering a road surrounded with forest. The sound of animals and insects cries filled the void aside from occasional blinking light coming from some runners ahead. It was almost painful to see when those blinking light slowly shrink away until it was just your headlamp shining the path. Although we still passed through populated areas now soundly asleep almost after each of these barangays the road was plunged again in a depressingly dark surrounding. Then as if conspiring to sabotage my attempt to conquer my first 85k ultra my feet began to impinge pain. In an attempt to add cushion to my Saucony Guide 7 shoes I stuffed it with an additional rubber sole. But it resulted in squeezing my toes too tightly at the shoes’ heads and now I was uncomfortably trying to endure it. I was also feeling sleepy that I tried stopping over to catch a few snooze but sleep eluded me when I gave it a try. Then a kind of anxiety that I did not encounter before in my other ultra run started clouding my concentration. Anxiety brought about by my question what to think about to pass up the time. Without anyone to talk with or anything to entertain my senses, I couldn’t help myself thinking of how far the journey still lies ahead of me. My mind keeps on coming back to the present bombarding me with the thought of the distance that doesn’t seem to dissipate. To me this was even more painful than the physical pain I was feeling at my feet. I think this is what actually breaks runners in long distance run. At a certain point I put out my headlamp because by then I was already in the area where fog was descending along the road and the light of my headlamp was simply illuminating only a few inches away. I just followed the broken white strips of paint lying at the middle of road and let my eyes trace the outline of the surrounding to make sure I was still running along the road and not straight into a ravine.

I don’t know how daylight came exactly. All I know was all of a sudden I could recognize my environment and ahead of me there was someone familiar that I was slowly about to catch up with. It turned out he was FB call sign Word Doer, a pastor by profession and a runner by passion. This broke my solitary journey. Together we reached the 3rd Aid Station at the 33rd kilometer which was somewhere near Pacific Highland. If you are to rely on the yellow stone kilometer marker whose reference for its 0 kilometer is Luneta in Manila, we were already somewhere at the 84th kilometers. Soon we were passing by Heaven’s Valley Café which was still part of Sta. Maria, Laguna. The road was still cloaked with fog. It kind of look like we’re somewhere in the Cordillera during the cold season and true enough the barangay we were soon entering is named Little Baguio part of Magsaysay, Quezon. I was hoping that at the Aid Station at the 44th kilometer there would be the shuttle carrying our belongings and serve as drop bag point as mentioned in the briefing. I wanted to lessen my load and change my running tights to a more comfortable pair of short pants. My running tight was brushing with my private part and the friction was causing so much discomfort. Unfortunately when we reached the 4th Aid Station there was no drop bag station waiting. Either we arrived late or our shuttle van did not consider itself part of the vehicle that should stop by the 44th kilometer for runner’s baggage. So, I have no option but to endure the discomfort, which during the course of the run somehow abated without me realizing it.

The portion of the route we were running is quite popular among motorcyclists who stop by to eat bone marrow stew or bulalo and rest. We saw a couple of runners trying out one at Jariel’s Peak. I wanted to try one too but Word Doer told me we could choose to proceed until the 55th kilometer Aid Station where his brother was a volunteer marshal assigned to that station. Word Doer had stowed there instant cup noodles, which we could eat upon arriving. I acceded since I wasn’t really hungry but was just curious about stew. When I caught up with Word Doer earlier there were quite a lot of other runners behind him considering he was just walking most of the way and I usually see him before trailing behind other runners. This means he was really opting to finish this race. It turned out this was his second take of R2L2Q. On his previous take of R2L2Q he was unable to finish and was picked up by sweeper. Initially I thought I might not actually be able to finish this race but with Word Doer now accompanying me who seem quite determined to conquer this race, I gained a certain confidence I could make it until the 85th kilometers. The only problem was whether we could do it within the cut off time of 19 hours.

We passed by a DENR check point whose notice inform us that we were already leaving Sta. Maria, Laguna and entering the Infanta under the province of Quezon. From afar at our right side, I could see interlocking of mountains and beyond it the Pacific Ocean according to Word Doer. Only around 40 kilometers more to go and we’re finally done with this race. Ugh!

We’re running in roads with a lot or “U” along the path meaning we were going around mountain while going uphill. We were still bracing for that penultimate uphill that would take us at the highest point of the road and from there unli-downhill. At the 55th kilometer instead of cup noodle we were treated instead with an adobo meal. Delicious! Soon Day Walker and company also arrived at the Aid Station. Day Walker was another runner doing a revenge run on this race. I met him in couple of run events but it was only in ran the run event Aguinaldo to Bonifacio 50k Ultramarathon that I had a chance to run along him. To establish some sort of pride in us by not allowing any more other runners passing us by, Word Doer and I decided to push ahead of the inclined road where we were resting. Along the road I almost stepped on a tiny snake crossing the road. By the time we reached the highest portion of the road we did not realized it that we were actually there. What was actually waiting for us at that portion aside from some other runners resting along the road was downhill galore. As if cued, suddenly a down pour coupled with strong winds came and welcomed us. I told Word Doer that we could take this portion running which will increase our chances of finishing this race within cut off time. But he relented. With still plenty of time left that even if we walk all the way to the finish line we could make it at the cutoff time maybe 30 minutes ahead. He however understood I wanted to establish a good finish time and in order to do that I had to run the remaining distance beginning with the downhill staring at us. He bid me to go ahead. I felt bad leaving him but didn’t think twice to consider my desire. I had to make sure I will finish this race within the cut off time. So, amidst the spray of rain and gush of wind threatening to dislodge me from the ground, I ran faster as my feet could allow me. I was literally hurling myself. I was afraid I might slip at the wet pavement or stumble upon some rocks but the momentum seemed to be sweeping all the odds away to favor me. I ran and ran until I was passing by – or in local jargon, “tuhog” other runners. The rain was short live but the downhill couldn’t be outlived. The sun suddenly peeked out of the cover of the cloud and shone greedily. More runners were overtaken by me including the 55 year old Tatay Crispin who looks much older than his actual age is. I actually caught up with him earlier in the race. He was with me when I tried to catch some sleep in one of the stores along the road that was closed that moment. He was wrestling with some stomach issues but when he bolted out from the shelter he went ahead of me and I never saw him again until that moment I was passing by him. I was afraid of running along side of him earlier because hearing his breathing which was a kind of suffering sound, I thought that I he might collapse along the road any moment. But other than that he was fit. But not as fit as Virgilio Fule a much older runner at 70 but younger looking than Tatay Crispin. As in my past experience with Tatay Virgilio, he simply cruised by me coming from behind earlier in the race and was never seen by me again finishing strongly way ahead of me while Tatay Crispin finished among the last runners.

The downhill seemed to go on and on but the kilometer marker along the road seemed to indicate I only managed to shave off about 5 to 6 kilometers. Nearing Aid Station 6 at the 66th kilometers I caught up with the very young Die Harder Runner who had already done R2L2Q the previous year and was doing it again this year just to improve is PR. He was however, suffering from acid influx and was burning out. After this Aid Station I soon lost my steam and began to struggle along the road. Pain from my thigh area and feet was making me want to stop and rest frequently. A couple of runners were also doing the same thing as I. One of them a runner whom I passed by at the downhill managed to get his second wind and went on to finish the race earlier than I. The other one ran along with me until later I left him about 3 kilometers before the finish line. The rolling route continued. With all the running I did I felt sure I was nearing the completion of another 10 kilometers but instead the kilometer in the kilometer markers didn’t budge. The remaining 20 + kilometers seem to be stretching farther as if the distance was being pulled inside the event horizon of a black hole and experiencing what scientists says might happen when being pulled at the event horizon, spagettization. At the Aid Station 7 at what might be the 78th kilometer we were told that about 7.5 kilometers remain before tucking this race behind my belt. The Welcome marker that carries the lion statue that served as our trophy design stood at the foot of the last downhill stretch. I soon found myself running along Siniloan-Famy-Real-Infanta Road. The road was all flat from here on. Vehicular traffic began to burgeon along with increase of number of establishments lining up the road. The last 4 kilometers was long straight road that seem to be taunting and testing the runners’ patient for you know the finish line is just somewhere at the end of the stretch but the road doesn’t want to end. I think I have gone crazy a bit for I was shouting and cursing. I could relate with the runner who posted a video of himself at the last stretch of his UP to UP ultramarathon quest. He posed a question if there is some truth in runners getting crazy running long distance. He says since he was talking with himself there might be some truth in it. The road finally croaked and gave in. A right turned at 20 De Julio then left turn to Plaridel Street before entering the covered basketball entrance for the Finish Line marked the end of a long journey I never thought I could accomplish long ago. Only 15 kilometers separate me from achieving 100k. But I know I won’t just yet be going to barge into this 100k club that soon. All the 100k plus run events scheduled until the end of this year had other run events running alongside of it that I am already signed up for. I wanted that when I do run in a hundred kilometer run event I will be able to finish it. That is why I had to keep on earning mileage and get my body used to long distances. Right now the feeling is akin with me running nearing the crest. I know I could make it there and I will make it there.