I’ve always wanted to visit the trails in Subic Bay, most particularly the Pamulaklakin Eco Trail Park of which i had just a sneak peek of its surroundings a few years ago. The chance came when i was able to join last Saturday’s Salomon XTrail Pilipinas 12k Trail Race and that distance wasn’t even enough to see majority of what it had to offer.
I just wanted to get this race off of my bucket list, as i was still nursing a recurring Achilles tendinitis which i got from 3 straight days of running in the Cordillera mountains the week before. But as always, running Salomon is THE trail event to look forward to and i wasn’t disappointed.
As with all venues, with no exception of this year’s edition of the race, the atmosphere at Subic was entirely welcoming! We arrived at the starting grounds at around 4:00am and alighted from the MEDIA bus provided. At the reception area, our race packets were immediately distributed to us. We immediately got caught up with the frenzy at the activity grounds, the happy bustle of meeting and greeting old-time friends, program hosts announcing the pre-race requirements on blaring speakers and some hot coffee and hot dog sandwiches as provided for by our gracious host, Ms. Aileen Frugal of Primer Group.
Competing in any distance at the Salomon XTrail Pilipinas is without doubt one of the highlights of any local trail runner, whether they’re competing on the longer distance mountain runs/skyrunning or the shorter races for the regular trail runner for an easier but no less technical trail route. And the route laid out to all distances, they were all challenging.
The 32k distance seems to have the most number of participants based from what i saw during their early start and it was still dawn when the gun was fired off. After a couple of minutes, off went the 25k runners.
While waiting for my 12k category gun start which started a good one hour after the 25k were sent off, i was able to explore the first few hundred meters of the 32k route which ran counter to those of the shorter distances. Newly chopped cogon grass were evident as you feel your feet sink to soft spots where the grass were sprawled over the trails. It lead to lush forest trails and the backdrop of mountains were there to appreciate.
The start of the 25k, 12k and 6k routes were directed on the opposite direction where you had to run on an asphalt road first. After less than 3 quick kilometers, we found ourselves into various series of uphill fire roads that were slippery as lahar sand was predominantly the surface.
We then reached the steel arc of the Pamulaklakin trails and after a few meters, marshals directed us into our first hurdle. It was a short stream crossing located just under a bridge. They could have just led us to cross over the empty, passable bridge and spare us of getting our shoes wet that early but instead, directed us to cross the knee-deep stream!
It was a continuous series of uphills thereafter until we reached a second aid station and turned left into a downhill trail going into a secluded forest. It was sad to see that parts of the trails were marked by burnt grass and tree branches on both sides brought about by a forest fire the day before. The route was hot, dry and what was left of dry leaves on trees served as our only shade. We made our U-turn on the 6th kilometer mark and we traced our way back on this out and back course.
The route back was quite frankly, a blur. It was all downhill at this point and except for moments that you had to be cautious because of the slippery roads, i just coasted along, letting gravity take my body along with it. The last 2 kilometers back on the flat asphalt road was somehow the most difficult as i found myself alternating walking and running under scorching heat. My injury on my left achilles tendon was starting to flare up at this point so my walking breaks had to be frequent. While looking at the runners do the same run-walk in front of me, i suddenly could hear a dull hum of activity which i surmised were coming from the stage activities. We couldn’t be that far.
Suddenly, the big familiar Salomon finish line arc appeared, like a sudden light at the end of a tunnel. Just when you had to cross the final finish, an obstacle appeared for all to crawl a 20-meter, man made pool under knee-deep of muddy water with a low lying net atop and a message that read, “I Ran The Path of Most Resistance!”.
As far as trail races go, the Salomon XTrail Pilipinas is always one satisfying experience. Nowhere else could you find an event staged like a big road race. Everything is well-managed, the cap on the number of runners, the amenities given and the venue itself.
There may be other trail races more more hard-core and scenic, like the races in the Cordilleras and in Tanay but i encourage those who have not ran the Salomon XTrail Run to do so…you won’t regret it!
From my account of the race, here are some pictures: