If you asked me to pick my favorite adventure race of the past 12 months, my brain would probably short circuit. The Corregidor International Half-Marathon (CIHM) is like running in an outdoor museum, the Merrel Trail Run in Timberland Heights is fun and challenging. But yesterday’s Nathan Ridge 21k Run in Tagaytay Highlands must have been the most grueling mountain run i have ever encountered.
And if you have to ask again which race has the most torturous hills on its course, that distinction should go to last Sunday’s Nathan Run, hands down! Whoever invented the terms “downhell” and “uphell” was right on the mark!
Tagaytay Highlands is an exclusive enclave of prime residential housing located within the Tagaytay mountain ranges. Some of the scenes, like the panoramic views of Taal Lake and its famous volcanoe and Mt. Makiling tell a story. You’ll see an incredible range of landscape and the setting, where you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by a ring of mountains and enveloped by the cool Baguio-like breeze is just gorgeous.
But don’t be fooled by the pristine surroundings, the breath-taking views and its runner-friendly roads. This place was an undiscovered gem for me until about a month ago when i had the chance, together with other bloggers to participate in a familiarization run sponsored by Nathan Sports. My stories (here, part-1/ ) and (here, part-2/ ). We were only able to run the first 3 kilometers and were greeted by some of the most relentless hills until we reached “The Peak”. But there was going to be more of those come race day.
Come race day morning, i arrived at ROX at the BHS at about 2:00am and saw Rod, who already was seated on a bench. Amanda, another blogger came later. We rode on a bus exclusively for the media and bloggers and since there were only a few of us inside the bus, other runners were allowed to ride with us. We arrived at Tagaytay Highlands at around 4:30am and since it was still early for our 5:30am start, we were allowed to rest at the sprawling Sports Center deck area. We had cool weather but no surprise here since temperature has been constantly in the high 60s around this area.
The 21k race started promptly at 5:30am and we were off. Despite the cool temperature, it warmed up real fast as the course went uphill immediately. I took off like a caged bird but as fast as we went, we were stifled by the steep and long hill upgrade so most of us went on “walk” mode. This continued until we reached “The Peak” for our first turn-around. Up there, a lady was gracious enough to rub some Bodivance oil to my calves which were prone to cramps in hilly terrains like this one.
From reading the elevation profile and course description of Nathan’s FB page, i thought the uphills would just be in the early part of the course and then back down in about the same way. Sheesh, i was wrong! I thought i could just run-walk the uphills and then hit my strides on the level parts and just let my legs take over the downhill part of the second half. But there was a lot more uphills on the second half than i thought!
For most of the race, i strike-up a conversation with Blas (The Titanium Runner) who i was with during the familiarization run. We immediately noticed the elevation drop from kilometers 6 to 8 which really had a tremendous downhill slope that we decided to walk rather than let gravity pull us down or face the risk of falling flat on our faces. We rued the fact that we would climb this up on our way back! Oh man! At least we would be treated to some great views of Mt. Makiling!
The water aid stations were really plentiful. Speaking of the aid stations. There was no plastic cups provided. The race required runners to use their Nathan Hand-held bottles that came in free with the race kits. I didn’t use my hand-held bottle but instead used my Nathan Speed 2 Hydration belt. The stations were well stocked with cold water and limitless Gatorade and runners had to simply refill their water bottles and off they went. Surprising that there was no over-crowding at these water stations and it was nice to see that there were no litters and trash of plastic cups that we usually experience in other races. A great innovation!
I was in survival mode at the start of the inclines from Km 16 to 18. Blas had gone ahead in his patented power-walk up those mountains and i was worried that my thighs and calves won’t last the entire race. Just putting one leg in front of the other was already a struggle. Runners were passing me but i didn’t mind.
I finally reached the main road which was all downhill to the finish, or so i thought. I saw the Sports Center building which was where the finish line was but the course went away from it then looped back! Ugh! Again, even at the very end, the road went up to some steep incline and wow, that was mean! Then it gently descended to the finish line. Praise the Lord!
My time was 3:05 which is the slowest 21k time i ever had. But i’m reasonably happy with my time considering the elevation and the time spent walking. You should have seen the face of Neville Manaois, the Race Director who was wearing this wide devilish grin when i was lamenting to him those killer hills. He seemed to relish the hardship and struggle we runners had to endure to finish the race! Grrrrrr…:-)
Over-all, this was one great run, a great running experience for the runners, excellently organized and the volunteers were awesome! Kudos also goes to Ms. Mariel Flores, Nathan Performance Brand Associate, Ms. Laira Legazpi and Ian Belleza of Primer Group and Ian Lumibao of M2M Communications and their respective teams for a job well done! You guys rocked!
(Thanks to Greentenial and ARC for some of the pictures i used.)