Finally, we were able to nail down this labyrinth of a route with all its hazards, obstacles and in pitch darkness. We did at times stray off the designated trails but recovered quickly before we got too far and it was one long, graphic adventure.
Having familiarized myself with the route twice during daylight, I was still worried about how we would go about finding our way in this circuitous maze of a jungle trail in the wee hours of dawn, with only the flicker of our headlamps peeking through the shallow river, rocks and narrow pathways.
Yes, the race started at 4:00 am, too early i might say, and we were off from our start in front of Sampaloc Inn, as running buddy Jun Santiago ran along the 1.2 cemented highway and up on the trails thereafter. We were all basking at the cool “Baguio” weather and didn’t sweat a bit until we reached that uphill assault in a small village where i could hear gasps of runners around me trying to catch their breath. Mine was as wheezing as theirs!
This was our first salvo into the trails and a portent of things to come! With one uphill after another, we were then led into a long downhill rough road then into more uphills and into a Barrio called Dayapa. Since this is an out and back route, i could just imagine the struggle we would encounter as we would tackle back the hills that we went through.
At about the 4th km, my main headlight went bonkers as it would switch off every time i skip or jump over a rock. And every time i re-set it on, it would go off again once i step on a bump! Good thing i had taken with me a spare single LED light which sustained me for the rest of the run.
The course came out to this river trail and we had to cross or wade through it several times, some knee-deep high. This part offers the most incredible running on the trail as we had to figure out which way to cross to the other side of the river. Groping in the dark, there were really very few options on how to move forward and it was a hit or miss thing finding the right trails. Regardless, we did our best to work around it.
There are probably a dozen scenes that vary from one trail to another—every surface from soft-packed trails to steep rocky ones and every kind of environment from vegetable fields to river and rock trails, often in different scenery.
There were arrow signages and yellow ribbon markers along the trails but they were far and few in between. You can’t see most of them in the dark so we were always keeping a sharp eye, like connecting the dots through these ribbons but as long as we saw some hanging on branches, we knew we were on the right track.
The course came out of the woods around the 10km mark and it was daylight by then. Six kilometers more of rough roads before the turn-around point at the Tinipak River and Rocks, my favorite part of the route.
The second half of the route was a long and arduous one as we re-traced our way back from Tinipak river to Daraitan Road then to the jungle maze then finally going through those hellish uphills which reduced many of us to walking. We made it again running into the small villages before hitting back on that 1.2 cemented highway for one final time.
I knew i was just a few hundred meters away but didn’t see the finish from the road as it was tucked inside the front parking space of the Sampaloc Inn. Still, i tried to make a dash for it and it finally came abruptly as i made a slight left turn to hit the tape! It was great to be done as the distance covered was actually 33.8 kms with my time at 6:57.
First place finisher, Manolito Divina who clocked in at 3:44 will be one of three runners representing PIMCO for a 50k trail race to be held in Hong Kong next week.
Over-all, it was a well-organized race with lots of hydration this time although i wished that they had moved the starting time a little later than the 4:00am start of the 32km distance and the 4:30 start of the 15k. I was told that majority of the 15k runners were not able to see the waterfalls at their turn-around point at the 7.5 km mark since it was still dark when they reached there.
Still, it was well worth the effort for the organizers to give us a good race. Our kudos to the Pimco Team of Alvin Balderama, Manny and John Santos for a job well done!
If you came from the usual fanfare of other local races in the city which were held simultaneously last Sunday, this Love A Tree Trail Run would pale in comparison in numbers but if you look past the loot bags and after race programs and gimmicks, this is one beautiful trail run with great back-drop all around.
If you love picture card scenery, this trail run is for you!
For RACE RESULTS you can check it here: http://www.pimcosportingevents.net/#!32k-love-a-tree-y3/cwls