Love A Tree Ultra Trail Run: A Trail Showcase!

On my way home last Sunday, resting my aching thigh  muscles after the pounding it went through during the Love a Tree 24k (plus 2.75k) run at Tanay, i was still trying not to over-embellish my exhilaration over this event. But it’s hard not to, Pimco Sports really put on a “trail showcase”.

This is probably the most scenic and varied 26.75k trail course Pimco has ever laid-out in its Tanay Trail running series. I don’t know if they can ever duplicate or surpass the sheer beauty of the trail route of changing vistas to another.

The start. (Pic taken from Pimco FB page)

At about 500 to 600 meters of changing elevation, it’s not an easy course but the top of every ascent rewards you with stunning views of the Sierra Madre mountains. The mountains are peppered with scenic byway trails, a wilderness area of old-growth forest which is incredibly peaceful. I nearly got lost here but one rule of thumb when you’re not sure where you’re headed is…stick to the main trail, the yellow ribbon will appear!

There’s an abundance of rocks that i thought could build a whole barrio of stone houses. This is the May Sawa Trails and i’m just talking about the first half here. I really couldn’t get my momentum going as i can’t help but stop and take pictures whenever i see a beautiful scenery and this is what my entire run mostly consisted of. Run, stop then shoot and repeat!

From navigating the peak of May Sawa, the downward spiral to Laiban was dizzying as i sometimes experienced some “lost” moments. If you don’t have somebody to stick with, you’ll be running by yourself for most of the time. On occasions, i couldn’t figure out where the yellow ribbon marks where but they were there if you really looked hard.

Laiban is a small Baranggay at ground level and it’s an area where the trails are mostly single-track, lush and sometimes open. You see the imposing green mountains on your left but just a few meters on your right, you hear the gently flowing river that is truly mesmerizing on the senses.

Where there are trails, there were also rivers to cross but these are gentle river crossings that added color into the run and thank God there were none of those “buwis buhay” (life-threatening, one-missed-step-and-you-plunge-into-the-river-rocks-below) river crossings we had experienced back during the Daranak Trail Run!

The last section of the run was a surprise of sorts as this was not in the original route. We headed into Baranggay Mamuyao, a quaint picturesque town with trails on the edge of a mountain, a valley curved by scenic river views. The view of the valley with the mountains as backdrop and the gently flowing river below is a stunner! And perhaps the most important thing you’ll also discover is its very accommodating town folks.

The route covered 26 kms+ of a surprising amount of variety that covered Barangays San Andres, May Sawa, Laiban,  Mamuyao,  Sto. Nino, and back to San Andres.

During our test runs that were held weeks prior to this race, we were not shown many of the the trails that we went through during this run, and its not clear whether the organizers, Manny Santos and Alvin Balderama had changed the route in the last minute or wanted to surprise us. But still there were lapses that needs to be addressed that i hope the organizers wouldn’t mind me saying:

Firstly, the utter lack of water that has been an issue for so long. Lucky for the runners who heeded their call to be self-supportive and bring their own hydration but that wouldn’t have been enough for runners who were running the 50k ultra event. I think the organizers should invest in buying these 5- gallon blue water containers with built-in faucets, get these filled up and bring them to strategic areas.

Second, the lack of marshals during the last stages of the race. We had to ask some kids for directions and luckily, they knew where to point us at. Or placing some more markers would have sufficed and lead us to the right route. Many of the runners had to backtrack to find their way. Some, simply got lost.

Lastly, whoever was assigned to man the junction at the corner of Marcos Highway and the entrance to San Andres  should be horsewhipped for not being there to guide arriving runners on their vehicles to the venue. Many of those not familiar with the starting venue over-shot that left-turn mark thus, went straight all the way to Pranjetto Hotel, a good four kilometers off the beat!

🙂 Still, despite these minor mishaps, the race went generally well, the route was well-planned (thanks for the extra 2.7kms), and the vistas all fascinating.

The scenery presented to us was like a great painting and that is exactly what Tanay represents. The landscape were like outdoor masterpieces, some jagged terrain, surreal climbs and others like a file of fascinating sketches. Truly, an Amorsolo on trail running!

The story in pictures:

Start of the May Sawa trail, beginning with gnarly tracks then ending with rocky terrain

Couldn’t resist stopping and taking some pics on this rocky trail

Even this runner couldn’t resist to stop and take a picture of the mountain view

Some trails criss-crossed along the foot of mountains

A lone thatched hut blending with the mountains

An open field replete with fresh air

Small fish ponds offered a refreshing views a midst the harsh landscape

A closer look at the meadows

Wild ornamental plants and shrubbery were abundant on some parts of the route

Part of the old-growth forest where bamboo trees abound

The downhill trails going to Laiban

A small stream that you had to pass over

There were a few streams to cross and bounce-off to get to the next trail

One of the ascents. Finding the yellow ribbon marks here is key to not getting lost

This downhill trail took us in the middle of the forest

The views would appear then dissapear and emerge again all throughout the route

Growing pineapples were seen along the trails

Friendly children smiling at our craziness

Another view above the trails

Trails at the sides of mountains

All those downhills during this part was hurting my quads!

Downwards to Brgy Laiban

The 50k ultra runners laughed at the “fun run” sign! Fresh coconut juice all you can!

Back to the low-lands

This will bring us along the rivers of Tanay

The Sto. Nino river trail

My shadow taking a pic

I almost missed this mark

Another river crossing

Shaded trails towards the river

Now running along side it

Into another wooded area

Finally, an open space

The trails in a mountain on one side and the river on the other side

Views were all blue and green

This trail goes to a river crossing

Poster from Viking Trail Shoe, one of the race’s major sponsors

A break at the end of the trail

My turn to cross

The view from the other end

I remember this from our test run weeks ago

Rivers here are crystal clear as you could see my NB610 trail shoe submerged

Rough road at the side of a mountain

These trails lead to one of the best scenes along the route

View of the shallow river from atop the trail

Runners approaching the river

Then wading through it

Meanwhile, the trails continues

Another view from the top as a runner makes her way back

One of the great scenes on this route

A closer view which leads to the river below

Entering Brgy. Mamuyao

The last river crossing

On my way back

The now familiar hanging bridge

A few meters away

Crossing the finish line. (Credits to Jose Ramizares, thanks!)

Glad to be done! 26.75k in 5:22. Ugh!

Friend June Santiago approaching the finish line minutes after

Jackie offering me a bagful of Alaxan FR! 🙂

With Coach Jackie and Trail Princess Goldy

With ultra running friends, Wilnar, Ronald and Doc Toto

With Nonoy, Manny (Pimco Pres), Daryl, Iris and Nikki