If it isn’t hard enough to run on muddy, ragged semi-technical trails, how much more if you run the same in complete darkness even if you have your head-lights on? More so, if it’s the first time you’re running on trails in the dark.
While i was running the Rock and Road Trail Marathon (RnR T42) yesterday which started at about 3:15am, the beams of my Energizer headlamps seem to be always propelling upwards so i had to adjust it several times: pulling the lens balls downwards, sliding it lower in parallel to my eyelids, reversing my cap so the visor wouldn’t block the lights and even placing it down to my neck. Still, i couldn’t get the right position where i wanted the trajectory of the lights to be…just a few steps ahead where i could plant my foot next.
I was getting impatient, so what i did was to just remove the headlamps from my head, hold it in my hand and focus it to where i wanted it to be, near the ground! That partly solved the problem! Having poor eyesight at night, it was probably better if i had brought a small flashlight instead, which was steadier to hold like what teammate Chito did. Later on, i would learn about his own dilemma.
I arrived with Chito at Nuvali at about 2:30am, just enough time for us to claim our 42k race packets and it was a breeze getting our bibs even with the long line that was emerging inside the Nuvali Club House. After a short while, RnR Race Director Jonel Mendoza gave a final briefing taking up with the runners the race route marks, no-cup hydration stations, among others and wished us all good luck.
We were fired-off at about 3:15am and only our headlamps and flashlights provided the illumination on the trails ahead. I was running beside Chito during the first few minutes until runners in front of me slowed down to walk on a part which had ditches and earth diggings but when our running resumed, i noticed him way out in front already in his illuminated Team 90% shirt, his flash-light swaying back and forth.
It was at this point that i was tinkering with my headlamp, trying to figure out the best positioning i could get from it. It cost me a few minutes trying to adjust and re-adjust the damn thing! I felt ok when we reached the first water station at a main highway at 5kms where they offered unlimited C-2 drinks! After a few hundred meters on the main road, were were again led inside the trails by no less than Jonel himself, encouraging the runners to stay on course and be safe.
Parts of the trails were slippery, parts were really bumpy and without the lights, you wouldn’t know if the path would turn left or right. At times, i focused my lenses 10 meters in front to see where the trails were heading but most of the time, it was pointed just a meter in front just to see what and where you’re stepping at. A good deal of concentration is really needed to feel your way in the dark.
At the about the 7 km mark, i missed to focus my headlamp downwards when my feet stepped on several pointed objects which had me scream in pain. To regain my balance, i had to use my left foot to hit the brakes but instead, it slid-off because of the mud and twisted my ankle at a very tight position.
I immediately felt the pain on my right foot, particularly on the medial side of my plantar. I walked for a few minutes to see if the pain would subside. It didn’t. I started running to see it would be tolerable but the pain seem to get worse the more i put pressure to it. Now, “Houston, we have a problem!”
From the 7th to the 10th kilometer, i was virtually a zombie, jogging some parts but mostly limping and my mind and feet now at odds whether to continue with finishing the marathon or not. And i will have to decide when i reach the turn-around point of the 21k race distance (at 10.5 km mark).
I was really limping when i reached the turn-around point (2nd water station) as the marshal noticed and was asking if i was alright. I said that i stepped on something sharp and was experiencing pain on both feet. I knew that i won’t be able to continue with the rest of the distance and the marshals could do nothing as well as we were in the middle of nowhere.
Since this was the 21k turn-around point, i asked if i could just be allowed to turn-around and finish the 21k distance as i would DNF the 42k race anyway. He paused for a while not knowing what to say and looked at his co-marshals. He then asked if i would be able to continue the rest of the 10.5 km return and when i said i could easily manage that, he finally said, “GO!”
That was a big psychological boost for me. 10.5 kilometers is nothing, i’ve run through all sorts of pain before and know that i’ll manage to return…somehow.
I was able to power walk my way back, sometimes alternating it with runs whenever i see flat surfaces. The pain was not as intense during the first half but it was there, sometimes twinging when i land at the smallest twist of my foot.
I arrive at the Club House, site of the start and finish, 4 hours 23 minutes for the 21.7km journey. I purposely did not cross the finish line as i didn’t finish my intended distance but went straight to the club house instead to look for some ice cubes so i could apply it on my foot. When i went to the front porch, Jonel saw me and was surprised why i had already arrived! I explained what happened and pointed to my injured foot. But what completely surprised me was somebody who looked familiar sitting beside Jonel. I think he was shocked to see me but not as shocked as i was because it was unexpected of him!
This person i saw, of all people, was Chito, esteemed veteran of ultra-running, sitting in a chair, looking dejected with a bagful of ice placed on top of his left foot! He had arrived even before i did! Seem that he had sprained his left foot on the 16th kilometer but still managed to arrive at the 21k turn-around point. From there, he was unable to continue and was whisked to the starting line in a pick-up vehicle.
We both stared at each other then we both burst into laughter! Like a chorus, we asked each other, “What happened to you?” “Damn the both of you”, retorted Jonel, “you just made an LSD out of my race then got injured!” Another round of laughter!
But nothing was funny at all, not any of the agonizing kilometers we went through, not of the injuries we both sustained. Tough luck for both of us, injury chooses no one.
Well, despite our setbacks at the trails, we were still in good spirits, that something more positive will come out of these and lessons will be learned. After the run, we both had a few bottles of our favorite brew at Kowloon House and reminisced, laughed and rued our experiences.
My right foot is now bandaged temporarily, swelling of ankle has subsided a little and applying ice on both heels and ankles whenever i can in the hope i may be able to run normally again in a few days time.
Thanks to Jonel and Conz Mendoza for caring after us and providing our needs after the race. Mabuhay kayo!