As the final Lenten week approaches, i will again witness bare-chested males marching in the streets of Pampanga, flagellating their bodies with bamboo whips until blood oozes out from their backs. Eventually, i will also get to watch on tv actual crucifixions where either men and women will be nailed to the cross for real!
These are Lenten rituals of some Christian devotees, an act of penitence to atone for their sins, give thanks for curing their illnesses or to grant their wishes.
Yesterday, I, together with a thousand others were subject to another form of penitence, not because we wished to repent for our sins and ask for forgiveness from the Almighty but because we, devout runners, had to scale ridiculously steep mountain trails of the Hamilo Coast in Batangas for this year’s Salomon X-Trail Run that in the end, we were asking for his salvation!
I didn’t expect it to be this difficult and even though i had only managed to enter the 12k run, it seemed like we were pushing at double the distance, much more for the 24k runners who were finishing it from 4 to 6 hours!
The mountains had undulating steep inclines and there were many more of it when we finished the beach run and started to ascend on the second mountain trails. The trails were pretty narrow on some parts so a single line were formed and it was rare that one could pass through other runners except when downhills would offer that chance. Every trail goes up until it comes down.
I was feeling very sluggish and heavy during the ascend on top. Many times, i had to stop and so did the others as i felt my chest was about to explode or you get to drown on your own heavy breathing. Nice to have those small tree trunks to propel you up but it mattered very little when you were scaling continuously on top.
The downhills were much easier for me although i think you should have that level of self-confidence because any hesitation or doubts on where to land your feet would require much more energy or slow you down as i saw many runners who stopped, hesitated then fell on all fours on the steepest of descents. I had a misstep on the 8th km myself when i hesitated and missed the small rock i was to land on and the result, a fall on my butt that resulted to cramping on my left calf muscle.
One complaint i have on this race was the utter lack of hydration stations in the mountains. The organizers should have made the effort of hauling those gallons of water atop those hill crests as this is where runners need it most. One female runner even asked me if i could spare some from my backpack so i took the pack off, poured some water from the water bladder into her water bottle. She was safe in the meantime.
There was to be a cut-off time for all the distances and so many of the 24k runners did not managed to make the 5-hour cut-off even if they announced late into the race that it was extended to another 30 minutes.
During the last 3km, i was just exhausted to even make a run for the cut-off time of 2:30 for the 12k distance even if it was all downhill so i just took my time. I just shrugged when i saw my time at 2:45 upon crossing the finish line. My usual 21k time on road races was even faster than this.
This is probably one of the hardest trail races i have ever done. I am however glad that i took part in it, getting to feel what a mountain race is all about.
Kudos to all runners who participated and finished this race!
My next trail race will be the Merrell 21k Trail Run in San Mateo, Rizal next month. And before i forget, i saw Thumbie Remigio, the organizer of the Merrell run who was in the middle of the pack during the early stages of the 24k race! I hope he won’t upstage this Salomon event by changing the Merrell course into a more difficult one like what we experienced here at Hamilo Coast.
If that happens, someone is going to get flagellated this time!