There were many eye-openers, sometimes quite painful lessons to learn from my first Trail race at the Tagaytay Higlands last Saturday during the Salomon 24K Mountain/Trail Run. Each trail run experience is different for anyone, but some harsh realities are applicable to everyone if, for no other reason, a fair share of caution.
The trails and mountains of the Tagaytay Higlands were daunting and arduous. We ran through muds, ran inside forests, up steep hills, we walked along fenced edges of ravines, we descended with the help of a rope down a steep embankment and the most bewildering part for me was we ran past a huge, agitated and rampaging cow which charged us head-on and once we dodged its bulldozing head, it came back at our backs as we scampered anew saving our arses in the process!
I and the other runners could barely walk on the sideways, laughing out loud recalling this very unusual experience!
Unlike other trail races I joined in the past, this course was well-marked with ribbons and banderitas guiding us into those mazes, the race wasn’t the least bit crowded, it had a friendly vibe, marshals were stationed on very unlikely sections of the forest and they had enough sports drinks and water stations to fill up our hydration bottles without having to worry when the next station will be. Indeed, it was a very well-organized race.
The first trail section of the run felt really good as i and other runners had already ran this 6.7 km trail section on a test run a few weeks before. I was picking up tempo quite good although my breathing has always been labored which happens always when running uphill trails. Most of it were single track, rocky, steep and quite technical—you really had to watch your step and go easy on those slippery short down hills.
I ditched my regular trail shoe in favor of my Mizuno Prophecy road shoe that had nice clinging outsoles and performed very well during our test run on these same trails. I thought that it would perform just as well during the actual race on both roads and trails and that I could just coast along with it. Boy, was i wrong! I had forgotten that it had rained several days prior to this race that part of the course had become wet and muddy. I had to stop several times to remove the mud off the shoes and if you didn’t, it felt like you were dragging a pair of military boots.
At the 10km mark going towards the main asphalted highway, I was still going on nicely until I felt a sharp twitch of pain on my left heel. I scaled back into a run-walk mode. I then stopped into a road side, sat down to remove some pebbles that were inside my right shoe. When I rose-up to start again, that pain was very sharp and lingering this time, not just on the left foot but it was also creeping into my right heel! My old nemesis, plantar fasciitis had returned!
I was in survival mode for the next 2 kms as I could barely move. The pain, especially on my left heel was excruciating every time I make a step. The pain became unbearable that at the last hydration table on the 12th km mark just before climbing the highest peak of the course, I threw in the towel and informed the marshals that I was going to abandon the race. I had fought the thought of quitting a dozen times during those 2 kms before the half-way mark even if it would take me to walk all the way to the finish but the odds seemed not to be in my favor. This was my first DNF.
With my head bowed, I was driven back on a motorcycle of a security escort to the finish line area where an ambulance was already waiting and I was immediately attended to by the medics.
In summary, even though my run didn’t end the way I wanted it to be, I’m glad I ran it, just the same. Just to be able to feel and experience the struggle of running a difficult course even when injured, is rewarding in itself.
The race was a humbling and learning experience. I had trained on hilly terrain for this race so I thought I was ready to face up the challenge. I had 25k LSD runs on my own. I thought I had adequate shoes that would stand the rigors of the terrain. Apparently, not so. The hills and those shoes eventually got to me and what these two didn’t do, my plantar sure did!
I hope to be back soon and looking forward to the next challenge.
Here are some more pictures of the race: