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.

Sharing My Manila To Sierra Story

I thought after the 117 kilometers Andres Bonifacio Day Ultramarathon (ABDUM) there is no more event worth taking notice about. I am thinking instead of filing a sort of yearend report on my running activities.  This is in spite of having still two more run events for me to go to before the year actually ends. However, one event, the Manila to Sierra 65 Kilometers Ultramarathon organized by Coach Roel Amabao-Ano had left quite an impression on those who participated in it including me and therefore deserved some attention.

 

The event happened last December 17, 2016 where it had its gun start in front of the triangular plaza of Manila City Hall at 11:00 pm. The event was participated by 125 solo runners and probably just a couple on the relay category. Among those familiar with me who attended this event were as follow: Robinson, Jaime, Noel and his fellow Team Cabalen; the couple Levi and Girlie who DNF in the event Ibtur under the 160k category where I last saw them; Marielle who ran 65K in ABDUM; Cross dressing Fabulous Running Diva Yssa and Fritz running with headdress on and with Frinze in barefoot; Jham who was co-organizer of the 1st Isla Catanduanes Ultramarathon (ICUM), which kind of made it difficult for me to hide from his invitation to take the 110 kilometer category of the second ICUM; Davao based Nars who recently ran in Penang Malaysia; Nancy who I last saw action in the run event Bohol Marathon; Anton another runner who had not ran in any event for a very long time; RDF, Rona, Peewee who all DNFed at ABDUM. However about a week ago, RDF and Peewee redeemed themselves with their 100+ kilometers finish at the event 24 Hour Crazy Run. I think there were a pair of Japanese participants and representatives of various running clubs such as Ayala Triad, P.I.G.S., Team Arunkada; and bunch of first timers in ultra marathon running.

 

Upon gun start runners took Taft Avenue north bound passing by the Bonifacio Monument designed by Ed Castrillo which I cannot help feel was a nod to ABDUM event done two weeks earlier. The route then took runners towards the direction of the Art Deco style building of Metropolitan Theater and Quezon Bridge. Thankfully Quezon Bridge had been undergoing some repair for quite some time now and thus prevented runners from experiencing the unimaginable stinks this important structure kept at the four covered portion of the bridge’s entrances and exits as these were turned into public latrine by street dwellers. The passing runners also perhaps interrupted the commerce of pack of young snatchers preying upon PUV passengers lulled by the slow moving traffic or cut off from the world with their smart phone’s headsets.  From the bridge one could gazed upon the brackish Pasig River that served as highway during the Spanish Colonial Period flowing below the bridge, while the skyline bannered a tired city cross pollinated with influences from various culture such as Islamic, Catholic and American.  As we reached the other end of the bridge I observed that in spite of the lateness in the evening, The District of Quiapo was still abuzz with people trying to catch a ride home now suddenly disrupted and curiously watching the passing runners. They were probably asking what sort of craziness was going on.  Crisscrossing runners who were trying to avoid bumping bystanders and vehicles headed for Recto Avenue. Upon reaching Isetann’s Department Store runners turned right to the formerly portion of Calle Azcarraga starting from Binondo terminating at Calle Alix now Legarda. Runners would be following the elevated tracks of the slithering LRT Line 2 until it runs out of track at Santolan Station. I read somewhere Recto the present day university belt was once home to various houses of ill-repute. We were running at the right side of the road following the flow of traffic which was against the usual practice of runners to run against the flow of traffic which usually at the left side of the road. We turned left upon reaching Mendiola. The statue of Don Chino Roces never cast a glance at us nor to those who tried to march towards Malacanang to express opinions, to decry or to petition something to whoever sits as President of the country for behind the statue is the street going towards Malacanang Palace. I entertained a thought wishing that particular street passing by Malacanang which exits at J.P. Laurel and into Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard should have been included in the race route.  Instead we followed Legarda heading for Arellano University and then the Flyover Bridge that will take us across to Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard. While running on top of the Flyover I can’t help feel that I am once again in the event, Condura Skyway Marathon. Unfortunately for this coming 2017 the organizers of Condura Skyway Marathon had already announced that there would be no Condura Skyway Marathon as the organizers wanted to assess the event’s success and find out how it could still be improve. The convenient store, 7-11 however, which had been holding run events at Skyway for the past two years after holding it at Cavitex will be the sole organizers that would still provide opportunity for people to experience running on top of the Skyway. Another thought that occurred to me while running on top of the flyover bridge was a dream to run in an event that will feature the busy streets of the city of Manila that would include San Nicolas, Binondo, Escolta, Sta. Cruz, Quiapo, Legarda, Santa Ana, Ermita.

 

Another runner who also ran and DNF at ABDUM was Elena probably already on her mid-fifties who hailed from Cavite. She spoke of her concern of getting lost along the way if she could not keep up with the other runners since she is not familiar with the streets of Manila.  I was initially keeping close watch of her as we ran but she seem to be doing fine and was in fact running a bit stronger that it was I who was having hard time catching up on her. I along with RDF, Rona, Alvin of Team Heroes Philippines and Elena’s husband who was doing a relay were occupying the last place and enjoying the privilege of last runners of being shadowed by a motorcycle riding marshal. Upon arriving at SM Sta. Mesa we took the foot bridge to get to the other side to Aurora Boulevard. I noticed that from Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard the road was actually slightly uphill already. The sidewalks after SM Sta. Mesa were also a bit darker and populated with sleeping homeless denizens of the city.  The first Aid Station was located at the 8th kilometers in front of Robinson Place’s Magnolia. At Cubao we once again climbed up a footbridge and upon getting off it we were heading for Katipunan. Along the way we chance upon Rose, one of the female runners who regularly run 100+ kilometers distance but now busy providing passing runners with water.  It was long pass midnight yet still more people were out on the street. I think this made it seemingly safer for us participants than when the streets were devoid of people which most likely will attract people with malicious intentions. After Katipunan we headed for Marcos Highway. At this point Elena’s husband was suffering from either cramps or some other issue with his legs. He was at the point he wanted to quit but his wife egg him on to keep going however slow it might take him.

 

We were soon running along another bridge with the view of SM Marikina. We were now in Marcos Highway or a portion of Marilaque which is short of Marikina-Rizal-Laguna-Quezon and referring to the 110 kilometers road traversing Marikina Valley, Antipolo, Rizal, Sierra Madre, Sta. Maria, Laguna until Infanta, Quezon.  In July 11, 2015 I joined the event, R2L2Q which utilized a portion of Marilaque in an 85 kilometers ultra marathon event. What was missing in that route was the Marikina portion which I was now passing through. The Cordillera based Team Malaya also attempted to have a 110 kilometers ultramarathon event that would covered the whole span of Marilaque but the event was shelved for either fewer participants or logistics issues. The next Aid Station was at the 16th kilometers near Sta. Lucia Mall. Manning the AS were volunteers from the running club Pinoy Aspiring Runners (PAR) with Elmar another runner who DNF at ABDUM welcoming us and Red Knight shooting photos of us. The AS had pizza among others which was timely because I was already famished. Although I mentioned that we were the last runners, that position was pretty much tenuous as the other runners would suddenly appeared from behind us when we took time to stop by or we were the one over taking those who were stopping by their support vehicles or convenient stores.  The next AS was at the 19th kilometer at Masinag, Antipolo City.  The footbridge we crossed finally had runners running at the left side of the road. At the top of the footbridge was Day Walker who also DNF at ABDUM but did the 24 hours Crazy Run successfully. He took our photographs by the bridge. Last 2015 I attempted to join the event, Sierra Madre Ultra marathon organized by Ariel Cortez.  Its race route started from Masinag and ended at Sierra Madre but after I registered I noticed that there were only about 10 of us running in that event. The previous year it had 15 which included Levi and Girlie. I did not anymore bothered to show up because at that time I was still quite bashful of ending up last with huge time disparity among the participants whom I suspected then were most likely elite runners. I did not know if that event pushed through for there was no race result published in the organizer’s website. At least in this event I would finally experience that route. Upon getting off the footbridge we stopped by at 7-11 Store to rest for awhile, while RDF bought something to eat. A couple of other runners were already resting there and having coffee. I felt the air was becoming colder. Soon talks among the runners resting turned to the topic about running shoes as one of the runners was wearing a Hoka brand shoes whose model was for trail running. He told us might as well wear trail running shoes since the pavements of the country were rough and uneven. RDF related how his Altra’s sole pealed itself off at earlier this year’s event, Mayon 360. While my Saucony ISO Triumph pealed its sole off at the 10th Tagaytay to Nasugbu Ultramarathon. These happened when the pairs being sold in the stores were actually older stocks according to the one wearing Hoka. When we returned to the road we encountered a steep uphill before it gradually leveled off.  From here on until the 35th kilometers the road had about 300 meters gain in elevation. Rona spoke to me about a possible cut off for those who will not make it at the 35th kilometers by 6:00 am which she heard mentioned at the starting area. This got me worried because earlier Rona mentioned that she was currently undertaking therapy for both of her legs which suffered some torn muscles. If I will pace along Rona I might not make it to that cut-off time. So, I began to speed up until only RDF was keeping up with me. The next Aid Station was found at the 25th kilometers along Cogeo public market area.  RDF and I then passed by a fork on the road the one on the left led to Pintong Bukawe, San Mateo, Rizal. The place which featured two huge stone tablets with the 10 commandment inscribed in it, was in the movie, Bike To Love starred by Solenn Heuseff. It was one of the places popular among trail bikers. Last July 2013 I ran in the event, Merrel Adventure Run. This event was the last trail run event Merrel organized. Recently, Soleus held a buddy trail run event there which RDF had participated. Along the way RDF mentioned of a beautiful church around the area of Boso-Boso which we found ourselves passing by. I was only familiar with the St. Joseph or Baras Church which was one of the oldest in Rizal since I had visited it once and Morong Church with its Pagoda style façade that I have not yet visited, but not Nuestra Senora de la Annunciata of Boso-Boso. Another church that I had not yet visited is the Saint Idefonsus de Toledo of Tanay which had been declared National Cultural Treasure my previous office the NCCA.

 

The Manila to Sierra route from start until finish line actually totaled only 60 kilometers that was why upon reaching the 35th kilometers runners were required to double back for another 2 kilometers and then return to the Aid Station at the previous 35th now 39th in order to augment for the missing distance. At about 5:45 am we reached the 35th kilometers. From here we learned that Alvin had quitted the race while Elena’s husband managed to reach the transition area and had his daughter continued with the next part of the relay. Rona also managed to make it at the 35th kilometers although there was no truth about the cut off established in that area. Rona found two new runners Angelo and Edmer to pace along her who were both first time ultra marathon runners.  At the Aid Station in the 42th kilometers we once again had Elmar and Red Knight manning the AS. At this point we noticed that a lot of motorcycles passing along were becoming frequent, larger in numbers and a lot noisier therefore quite annoying. They were seemingly heading the same way we were heading. From the 40th kilometers to the 45th kilometers the road elevation had about 200 meters loss. But from the 45th to the 50th aside from the gain in elevation of 500 meters the route became winding. At the 45th kilometers I left RDF who seemed bent on reaching the finish line uninjured while I favored trying to reach it in faster time. While assaulting the ascents the quieter bicyclists were also quietly enduring pedaling the uphill stretch. Occasionally I received “a thumbs up” from a few of them. RDF was hot on my heel along with another runner and was able to catch up while I was resting somewhere near Palo Alto. We then spotted one of the female PAR volunteer jogging along the uphill. When she passed by us she told us Seannah Swift another elite female ultramarathoner was doing her Long Slow Distance along the same route and the PAR volunteer was trying to catch up to her. Not long after, Elmar on motorbike also passed us by. Upon resuming our run I once again speeded up and left RDF. This time it was Elena and another female runner Rhaymond whom I overtook while they were looking for a spot to take a leak. Up ahead I also caught up with Noel who was thinking of quitting the race because his right foot was a bit swollen and in pain. He was wearing a pair of slippers. He told me he left his running shoes in one of the roadside store a few kilometers back but was not sure if he could still remember which if he tries to retrieve it back.  I gave him a pain reliever then I moved ahead. I reached a portion that had an uncanny resemblance of a place I saw in Batanes which lies beyond the Municipality of Uyugan.  The only thing missing there was the strong wind I encountered along with the view in Batanes. Then I chance upon a spot probably a food house with viewing area that showcase Laguna Bay. As I was admiring the spot I saw in a signage that the place was just the 47th kilometers. I fought hard the urge to swear but I couldn’t help myself.  I seemed to have travelled quite a lot already for the spot to be just the 47th.  At the next Aid Station however I was told that I was already at the 55th kilometers. Feeling relieved I cheerfully went on. At another eatery by the road I chance upon two Team Cabalen runners, Rendell and Charito who were eating. Rendell treated me to a small plate of pancit and soda. I told them that I saw Noel somewhere after the 50th kilometers and was about to quit the race. But ho and behold about a couple of hundred meters behind us assaulting the road was Noel who seem to have found a strength to stay on the race. When he reached us he told us that the swelling had lessened. The pain was more bearable too.  I gave him another pain reliever. Rendell told me I could go ahead for they plan on taking the last remaining 7 kilometer at a more relax pace. So, I left them. From the 55th kilometers to the 60th the elevation gain shot up to 600 meters. Rain began to pour down pretty hard that when I reached the Aid Station at the 65th kilometers there were runners sheltering in one of the store along the road. One of them was Fritz still wearing his headdress just as how I saw him take the ultramarathon in Tacloban City to Basey, Samar. I thought maybe they had already finished with the race and were just manning the Aid Station as volunteers. But Fritz told me they hadn’t reached the finish line yet. I left the AS with a thought that there might still be other runners ahead that I could catch up with. The weather seemed to have given way to a storm which I wasn’t aware of any coming. But with the current weather system occurring in the country this time of the year, it was no surprise if suddenly a strong typhoon could suddenly develop and ravage the country as it happened in the past years. With the last 5 kilometers left I was getting a bit impatient to get this race behind me. I tried to ran but I couldn’t sustain it long I had to resort once again to walking.  Then the rain relented a bit. The sun even took a brief peek before hiding behind the clouds again. By that time I already saw that the finish area was at Pranjetto Hill Resort and not in Tanay Adventure Camp. Entered a gate like it was the Pearly White one we all wanted to enter one day. It was finally over. I logged a finished time of 11 hours and 59 second and ranked 106th finisher. Since it had rain the photographers had all left the venue including Peewee who finished the race quite early on with a time of 9 hours and 41 minutes. RDF came a little bit with a time of 12 hours and 37 minutes while Rona finished the course with a time of 12 hours and 51 minutes.

 

The race course was not like what I encountered in TransCebu 55 in 2015 where almost the entirety of the course was made up of ascents but Manila to Sierra with those uphill at the second half of the course was still a formidable race. Many of those I spoke with after the race says they find M2S quite a challenging because many of them had not ran as many race courses as I did that featured other difficulties aside from ascents. To me the true challenge was more of the mental one. I think I am coming to the point I am beginning to understand that distance could be overcome with the proper training and mileage but when doubt and other mental issues seeped in that when one begins to crumble against distance. Two of my running acquaintances ran close to 100 kilometers prior to running another 100 plus kilometer before taking Manila to Sierra. Both still managed to come through M2S with Peewee even finishing with an impressive time. With this idea I am suddenly embolden to consider I could successfully finish more 100 plus kilometers in the following year, which after my run at ABDUM, I thought I would be shying away from.  Rain once again poured down after the race and almost posed as the more difficult part of running in this event. I thought I would have to spend another day in Tanay for I did not avail a shuttle service for this race.

 

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.

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.

Out of Town

 

 

There’s something about running out of town. Every time I travel for an out of town run, I kind of feel like I am a real athlete about to compete on a prestigious world run event. This gives me some kind of kinship with the Kenyan runners who I also get to run along with in some of these out of town run events. I ran in two of such out of town events, the RF Pilipinas Run 2013 Angono Leg held last August 17, 2013 at Angono Rizal and at Bohol International Marathon 2013 held August 25, 2013 at San Agustin, Panglao, Bohol.

 

I have commented quite negatively previously about how Renderfarm under Philip Aquino Pacle had handled the Ku Ikaika 2013 but still this did not prevented me from signing up in yet another Renderfarm organized run, the RF Pilipinas Run 2013. I joined this event in such a short notice. Four days before the actual run, taking advantage of the suspension of classes with thunderstorm raging intermittently I went to Angono to pick up the race kit and seek accommodation for advance reservation to avoid running out of place to settle down before the race, thinking there will be a lot of runners coming from everywhere that might be coming in to join this event. Unfortunately, the hotel the organizer was promoting had been closed down for several months now. I went home without a sure roof to rest my head on the eve of the race event.

 

The day before the race I arrived at Angono and was able to booked a boarding at Insider’s View Hotel along the highway near Balaw-Balaw Restaurant. It was a kind of a sleazy motel really complete with garage room. The rate of charge was by the hours stay but I ended up paying P2,000.00 worth of hours of stay which I will not actually be able to consume. At least I’m about 10 minutes walk to the race venue.

 

On the day of the run, I noticed that there were only few of us running the 21k category. I’m guessing there were only a handful of us hailing from Manila. Many of the participants are local high school or college students who are probably members of the varsity running team. I’m quite prepared to lag behind after all I was after sightseeing. I didn’t saw any Kenyan among the runners who were warming up but there were couple of Caucasians among them a father and son I think. There were also old timers probably once athletes.

 

The race route took us from the town’s municipal plaza along Quezon Avenue then turn right to Don Mariano Avenue until the 8th kilometer where we turn towards Manuel Quezon Extension passing by the entrance going to the Angono Petroglyphs, passed by a tunnel and into East Ridge Golf Club Gate for the 10.5 K turning point then back to the Plaza. The road was basically a combination of flat concrete road until after 2.5 kilometer of the race where uphill and downhill slope more or less made up of the surface. The return run along Don Mariano Avenue resembled the downhill run I had experienced at the Santo Tomas part of the 32K Baguio 2013 Run previously organized by Philip Aquino Pacle.  I clocked 2:19 according to the yellow paper sheet the race official was holding so far, my fastest 21 k run but I doubt this.  Its either the distance was shorter or I did not see the result correctly.

 

Rain did not bother to show up the whole event until I was on my way back to Manila somewhere in Marikina. The following day rain did not abetted until the end of the following weekend.  Several weeks (or even months) later there were still no official race results – typical of Renderfarm – even though they were already announcing the Itogon leg of the RF Pilipinas Run and several other runs happening in Baguio area. 

 

I arrived in Bohol via PAL’s Manila-Tagbilaran. The last time I was in Bohol it was more than a decade ago and it was via ferry coming from Cebu. That is why I was so fascinated by the sight of Bohol from air with the Chocolate Hills now all colored green. Nothing I have seen so far was quite familiar with me in Bohol. That also goes to say I have no knowledge of my way around the city. But as usual from the airport I hiked my way just a couple of meters away from the airport before finally flagging a tricycle to take me to the Tagbilaran Community Hospital where the race kits were to be picked up. 

 

I met a couple from Manila. They actually were seated beside me at the airplane. They turned out to be running also the BIM2013, with the guy under the 42k category, his first time.  Soon, we were joined by another runner, a female runner from Manila who had just recently ran in a run event in Leyte. The race organizer, Dr. Brandon Bon finally arrived. The 200++ lbs. Dr. Bon told us he runs only ultramarathon nowadays. When he started running he was able to trim the 200 lbs to 120lbs. However, having stopped running for 3 years he regained the pounds. He further told us he just completed 100 kilometer and is currently preparing for a 120 km run.  

 

Bohol was a bit cloudy during the day of my arrival, with a little raindrop every now and then. Dr. Bon told us that it poured buckets the evening before.     

 

The race venue of BIM2013, I learned that moment was in St. Agustin, Panglao. About 18 kilometers away from Sun’s View Tourist Hotel where I am billeted. This means I have to find a way to go to the race event venue before 3:00 a.m. gun start. I tried walking from Tagbilaran to Panglao but it had only gotten me just after the Causeway before I settled to take a “habal-habal” or motor bike for P120.00. After inspecting the venue and admiring the 17th century old church, I hopped on a mini bus bound for Tagbilaran which fare cost only P20.00. But you will have to endure being jam-packed with the rest of the commuters until the bus reached the city. The bus’s last trip was some time at 8:00 p.m. it could not therefore be the mode of transport that will take me to the race venue come the wee hours of the evening. Before I hit the sack I managed to contract a hotel personnel to take me to the race venue via habal-habal lit by an ordinary flashlight for a headlight to the tune of P250.00.

 

I arrived at the St. Agustin, Panglao at around 1:00 p.m. The 42k runners had already been dispatched an hour earlier. Many things dawn to me on that dark wee hours of the evening. First, while taking the habal-habal ride, I realized I won’t be seeing the sand and sea. They are farther away from the road and hidden away by trees and properties. Besides, the best beaches are located at the other side of the island north by northwest from the road coming from the Causeway. Second, I realized that the race venue was less festive than expected. Even the stage, which was being readied when I arrived, was for another event, a beauty pageant, in fact that was to be held the next day. There were just quite a handful of booths sprouting around and an eerie absence of people that even with the music being played at the background seems could not puncture the quiet evening.

 

Shortly, runners began to arrive but even when all the participants of the 21k category run arrived and milled around there were only about a hundred of us. Not the most anticipated international event I expected. There were runners coming from the different parts of Manila recognized by the race host through the running clubs they belong. The only international runners I saw were the Kenyans other than that there were runners from Cebu, Bulacan and Cagayan De Oro. This was surely a classic case of miss use of the term international in the name of this event.

 

We were told earlier that the road was basically a long flat one with a little as 23 degrees inclination in a certain portion of the road. The road was supposedly lit. But there were areas that the light posts were too distant from one another that the road was literally pitched black. During the return trip after the 10.5 km turning point you could run into a runner coming from the opposite direction without you realizing it because of how dark the road turn out to be at this time of the morning.

 

Before we 21k runners had our gun start 4 of the Kenyan runners from the 42K were already crossing the finish line after running for about two hours and forty-five minutes. This was to be my time finish for this 21kilometer run.

 

Out route was basically St. Agustin to Dauis and back. I’m thinking round 5:30 to 6:00 am I would have already finished the run. I will arrive at my hotel at around 7:00-7:30 am and at 8:30 am would be off to the pier to take the ferry for Cebu. No time to linger around and enjoy Bohol sights and sites.

 

Finally we got out gun start. The road was pretty much flat alright and almost straight that even if I close my eyes, I will get to the turning point with little worry of veering too far away. However, the route was also open to vehicular traffic. At 3:00 p.m there were vehicles coming from behind me that could easily sideswipe me off the road if I digress away from the edge of the concrete road towards the inner lane. Lights from the incoming vehicle from the opposite lane also menacingly blinding out my vision almost the same way the dark road becomes indistinguishable when caught in between areas without light post or runners with headlamp leading my path.

 

With the road towards the turning point ahead me still lies in the great unknown, my thoughts wandered off to review what had transpired the whole day. My miscalculation about the distance of my hotel to the race event, my effort to figure out where the race venue which had gotten me to take the habal-habal for the first time, traveling along the rain soaked muddied road, with my pants getting all muddied in the process, then arriving later at my hotel to formally checked-in but instead of being entertained as valued customer had to wait for almost another hour beyond the check in time. I don’t know if my having mudded clothes and having beard growing had somehow diminished my appearance from the imagined out of town athlete competing in a prestigious race event into a seemingly drug cartel fugitive hiding out in Columbia had something to do with the shabby reception.  Another vehicle came dangerously close passed by and had gotten me off my reverie. I felt I was running an eternity. I checked my watch and thought I should have already gotten pass by the turning point for the 10. 5k. Maybe the distance of this race was not also accurate.

 

The actual run went totally uneventful. There were nothing at all to see to make the route quite interesting. As far as the community residing within the area who were still fast asleep, we were not even a spectacle worth bothering to watch and cheer about. They might not even be aware there’s a race event going on at all.

 

After the run there was nothing much for me to linger around. So, after downing the free snack which composed of hardboiled egg, bottled water and I have completely forgotten the other one, with still perspiration running down on my body for I have not brought a change outfit thinking a finisher shirt might be given away, I hiked to the bus terminal wearing an Adidas windbreaker over my shirtless skin. As the bus motored away there were still runners making their way to the finish line at the opposite side of the road. I wondered if running the 42 k category would be more satisfying than the 21k run I did.

 

It was surprising to note that no one bothered to comment about this race event in any of the more popular blogs and event webpages. The organizers’ FB site remained without any update about the race result of this event. It is as if the event never occurred at all or everyone who got involved in this race event got quite satisfied with their experiences that any comment about it was unnecessary. Another organizer got away unscathed in spite of a lousy organizing.

 

 

Trailing The Trail Run

When I first ran at the two trail run events, “Merrell Adventure Run 2011” and the “Camaya Coast Aquathlon” the categories I joined at were both in the 10 Kilometers categories. The Camaya Coast Aquathlon claimed the toughest trail run I had between the two. The trail run at the Camaya Coast Aquathlon had about 3 kilometers of uphill run, fair amount of downhill run, flat surfaces and sandy beach shore run. The entirety of the race was done between the time of 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. with the sun streaming its April heat upon the route.

Now come the 21k trail run I recently had courtesy of the Nature’s Trail Discovery Run held at Barangay San Andres, Tanay, Rizal last May 27, 2012. This by far my toughest trail run (here I go again with the claim). The race featured uphill run including more than 45 degrees inclined trail that summits Bangkaan to a view overlooking sea of fog swallowing valleys and hill below. Then after hydrating and eating banana the race took us to a steep inclined down slope trail that left the runner almost with only sliding amidst carabao grass and mud as the viable option to negotiate the route.

Aside from the mountain trail, the rest of the route which covered the four barangays of San Andres, Sto. Nino, Cayabu and Tinucan, were featured with rice fields, four river and a hanging bridge crossings and dirt roads under the watchful eyes of armed military soldiers but less from race marshals.

By the 12th kilometers of the leg of the race my legs were buckling and threatening to quit on me. I was reduced to hiking until I was almost at the last 200 meters of the race. Well, I was not running at the last 4 kilometers of the race because when I caught up with two other runners we end up chatting about our other previous runs and other topics under the sun that we forgot we were in a run event and not in a sight-seeing trip. Two other runners even joined our excursion. It was only after finally some other runners who already finished the race and some race officials who came looking for stragglers and after their prompting us to run the few meters to the finish line that we decided to give it a dash the last 200 meters of the race.  By the time I crossed the finish line four hours and probably past quarter had passed since I left the Starting area. Yes I still got my finisher medal and my name and finished ranking will be taken by Philippine Trail Runner Association (PTRA) to be use in the Philippines Ranking of Trail Runners.  But my pride had been greatly bruised that I want to do it again to redeem myself given a chance on September 2. Oh, wait there’s still the Merrell Adventure Run 2012 the week after.