Our Trail Run To Mt. Manalmon

Running buddy June Santiago didn’t mind making the two-hour drive from Quezon City to San Miguel, Bulacan and i didn’t mind tagging along with him as all i was thinking was getting my hands on some of the town’s famous pastillas and their crispy chicharon-laman (pork rinds) when we get there.

Chicharon BaboyThe best chicharon baboy is said to be that of Tia Pina’s in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. Chicharon baboy is pork skin (with the pork fat and meat in this case) deep fried until crisp and best eaten with a vinegar-garlic di(via ~MVI~)

Super special “suntok-batok” chicharon

No, we didn’t travel this far just to buy these delicacies. June had this idea of scaling a mountain peak and running the trails that led to it. Mt. Manalmon in Sitio Madlum, San Miguel, Bulacan offered some great sights and the trails along the way offered a little bit of everything. Gorgeous river ponds, boulders, rock formations, mostly single-track technical trails, river crossings, rocky ascent climbs and a hosts of many other delights nature has to offer.

A young boy, named Jerome acted as our guide and he kept insisting to run and climb with us even if we repeatedly told him that we could manage the climb ourselves.  Before we arrived, June and i took breakfast of congee, eggs, bread, tofu and coffee at a small restaurant near the entrance of the Biak-na-Bato shrine and this fueled us up  for our run and climb up Mt. Manalmon.

The run-climb up this mountain just took about 5kms one way but it had one of the most treacherous trails i had ever done. Good thing, i was wearing a new trail shoe for review, the Viking Anaconda-Boa II which really held on very well to slabs of rocks on descents and ascents, protruding tree roots, uneven soft surfaces covered by fallen leaves and river crossings.

The mountain hike is so called beginner-friendly and although the ascent was quite manageable, i took some rests in between those climbs as the trail was undulating, non-stop zigzagging where you hold on to vines and barks of trees to protect you from falling. Alas, i was always trying to catch my breath.

The view up the mountain was breath-taking with the Madlum River criss-crossing within the foothills of the Sierra Mountain range.

The trails here are awesome as you can see on the pictures below. This is a must run for trail runners who also wants to scale up a mountain for good measure.

Hope you enjoy the pictures of our trail run, below:

Vehicles are charged when entering the site. Car fees will cost P20.00

The first river basin you see upon entering

Nice rock formations

June finds his way along the rocky trails

Rocks, uneven surfaces and a misplaced rock on the middle of the trail. A trail shoe here is a must.

One of the small caves along the route

Trying to balance myself on a slant trail

More of the rock formation 2 kms east

Good idea to wear trail shoes here

Wooded area provided our cover from the heat

Boulders of rocks where walking is a must

We could almost hear the slightly gushing river nearby

This scene is what greeted us upon reaching the banks!

Taking a step at a time

A balancing act!

Crystal clear water

Great views along the trails

Approaching the northern side of the river

Postcard scenery

Time-out for a pic

June’s river-crossing

It would have been nice to take a dip if not for time constraints

June at the other side of the boulder

A view up Mt. Manalmon. Boy in picture is Jerome, our guide in waiting

Various trails on our way up Mt. Manalmon

At the top of one of the peaks

At the second highest peak!

At the hump-back rock, the highest peak!

Made it on top!

Highest peak of Mt. Manalmon

The Sierra Mountain range on the background

Praying to the mountains

The view from the top

We tool another route going down and the trails were less technical

A lone pineapple along the trail

On level ground, at last..

June inspecting one of the caves

(Photo credits: Chicharon pic fr tapsilogatbp dot tumblr dot com)

The Shotgun Route: A Mountain and Trail Run Odyssey

Running 38.3 kilometers in scorching heat seems lunatic specially when it’s about 33 to 34 degrees at its peak out there at the Shotgun Run last Saturday. Crazy as it were, we actually did get to enjoy every minute of it and it seemed to be one enormous victory over the elements of running non-stop hills, undulating mountain roads and technical trails on a route that is known as the “Shotgun Route!”

I only heard about this route through friends on Facebook and they keep raving about its difficulty, the vastness of experiencing a road-hills-mountain and trail run, all pictured into one loop of pure exhilaration that it has become a favorite of many runners.

It was now time to discover it as well. Some members of our running team, Team 90% (don’t ask why it was called such) composed of Mel, Chito, Tonet, Betty, Sylvia, myself and an office mate of Sylvia’s set off in 2 cars and arrived at SSS Village in Marikina and parked the cars in front of an old running friend’s house, Dave Buban. Dave wasn’t running with us that morning and was just content in looking-out after the vehicles while we were out on our run.

I was a bit excited but a little concerned as to whether my plantar issues was going to plague and stop me again on my tracks. The good news is that the bum heel seem to heal very nicely after my disastrous Salomon Trail Run three weeks ago and thereafter, i was able to lodge 15-21k LSD runs with no pain at all.

When we arrived at Dave’s place, some runners were already there ahead of us. Ultra-runners Doc Toto Mina, Jael Wenceslao and Keisha Fule were waiting so we could all start together. We warmed-up with a few minutes of walking and when we were on a flat terrain, we were off running.

Our 5:30am start was rather late as the sun had risen just a few kilometers after we had started. We passed by a few private villages in Marikina, crawled under closed village gates and even got lost from the first group who were leading us by a few hundred meters. From Marikina we entered San Mateo, on its backdoor entrance going through continuous uphills and downhills and flourishes of trees that lined-up on most of the route.

SSS Village borders the hilly town of San Mateo

One of the hilly routes that we had to take

We finally arrived at the road leading to Timberland Heights. The welcome sign to Timberland was familiar to me although i was used to seeing this from the MAIN entrance coming from J.P. Rizal Road where many cyclists seem to be more familiar with. Another kilometer and we made a stop-over at Aling Tinay’s small eatery where our group partook Lugao with boiled eggs and boiled bananas that was to be one crucial nourishment break to survive the dreaded Shotgun Road and trails.

The start of the mountain pass (Shotgun) that climbs up to Timberland

Less than 2 kilometers is the 1st entrance to Timberland Heights, a dizzying uphill of a mountain about 3.5 kilometers long although there is another entrance which is the main one along C-6 Road all the way to Timberland Avenue and is a kilometer away on the north. We took the first entrance.

Just looking at the winding zigzag road going up that mountain, i couldn’t envision myself running those steep inclines. No way! All of us decided to walk those uphills except for Mel (our group’s master show-off) who seems to be reminding us who the King of the Mountain is!:-)

It was at this point when Chito told me that this was the notorious Shotgun Road they were raving about! Damn! A mini Kennon Road of sorts! Here are some pictures i took of the route:

An ordeal of a climb

No shame in walking! Even that mountain biker had to stop and rest.

L-R: Mel, Sylvia, Tita Betty, Ninang Tonet and Chito

This is the "shotgun" route!

We still had to scale up that green peak at the background

Ninang Tonet meets Doc-Romy who was on his way down

The top of the mountain was fascinating! There was a slight cool mountain breeze, breath-taking mountainscape and a picturesque view of Metro Manila. The only draw-back to this route is the constant passing of garbage dump trucks which utilizes this road to dump some of the metro’s garbage into the nearby San Mateo Sanitary dump site. It sometimes pollutes the fresh air that breezes along the canyon ridges.

After a few more climbs, we finally reached the start of the Timberland trails. I’m very familiar with these trails, having ran here several times both during training and trail races although this particular entrance is new to me. At an elevation twice that of Antipolo City, this serene and breezy mountain retreat affords a panoramic view from Laguna de Bay to Mount Arayat in the north.

It was a gorgeous day to run these trails as they were damp, dry and gave my feet and legs a respite from all the pounding we did at the earlier miles. It was starting to get hot and the only concern i had was we were running out of water and the next stop was about 4 kms more when we would emerge out of the trails.

The trails wound up through scenic gorges, lush foliage within a virgin forest although the surface began to be more technical as you enter deep into the woods. Knowing the trails by heart, i was able to skid out ahead of the group and after a few more kilometers, found my way out of the jungle passing by the Timberland Country Club and into the main gate where a small eatery often frequented by cyclists was situated. Took gulps of Gatorade, Cobra Energy drink and lots of water! Whew!

After about 10 minutes, the rest of the group arrived and we all enjoyed the break, taking in some bread, rice cakes and stacked-up more water into our hydration packs before we continued our journey back. We had already ran 24kms up to that point and there was another 14kms to complete the loop.

Here are some pictures of the trails:

The start of the trail to Timberland

Heat was staring to flare up at the start of our trail run

Thankful of the trees that kept us in shade for the most part of the trail run

The view at the opposite side of the trails

Mt. bikers shared the trails with us

Small rocks were all over the place

Mel leads the way

A haven for bikers too

A shaded portion

Keeping our steps at bay to avoid the small rocks

Final group pic before our run back to home base with 15 kms to go.

The trip back was one of the most arduous runs we ever had as we were basically being roasted under the sun. It was just 11:00am but the sun was above our heads so we constantly took walking breaks. At some hilly road, we stopped in front of a front yard and asked the house owner if we could pour ourselves water from a faucet that was situated just outside her doorstep. She might have thought that we were doing some sort of a post-Holy Week “penitencya” so she willingly let us in. We all doused our heads with ladle-full of water. And that was so refreshing!

At about 1:10pm, logging-in a total of 37 kms and temperatures hovering at about 34 degrees, we were now back inside SSS Village in Marikina, all dehydrated and here we were, back where we started but we couldn’t find Dave’s home! I was like a zombie moving aimlessly trying to figure out where the house was and then i realized that i lost sight of the group too! After a few minutes, i saw Betty calling me, waiving from a store and that they had found Dave’s home!

Total distance completed, 38.3 kms and run was finished at 1:30pm. I felt good except for the usual pain in the thighs and butt. And no pain on the plantar…Yebahh! The next day, i amazed myself by doing another 7kms recovery run near UP campus while i was playing the events on my head that transpired during our Shotgun run!

Though the Shotgun route was difficult as it was, i would like to believe that if you would have to do this route, you would also have to cover the relentless rolling hills of San Mateo, Rizal which are still untapped by many runners.

We are slated to do another long run of about 43kms on a new route Dave has discovered and dubbed the “Lost World”. I just hope we’ll be able to find our way back, alive and running!

A bird's eye view of the metropolis

The Rolling Hills of Tanay

One stretch of the zigzag road in Tanay, Rizal

This wasn’t my idea of a “break” I sorely needed. After 14 consecutive days of running (took the whole day off on the 15th), the thought of doing another 3-4 hour LSD yesterday, Sunday, was not going to be a pleasant one. Then along came Tanay, Rizal, a running haven which my group had finally agreed upon after some “vicious” deliberations on where to run this time, tired of the Ortigas-Ultra cycle we had been doing regularly.

The winding highway inside Tanay, its rolling hills, clean air, magnificent mountain vistas and the relative absence of traffic made us want to come back again to explore its charms at a leisurely pace. I was with Betty, Tonet and first-timers to Tanay, Leo, Sylvia, Alex and Elaine. For me, this was just going to be a leisurely, picture-taking pace and for the others, a hill training session (the hills here are treacherous!) but no matter what you call it, it’s going to be a sight-seeing run!

We all met at Masinag, near the entrance to Antipolo at about 4:00am and after buying some provisions of water and food, we headed off to Tanay for the one-hour drive. The early fog was breaking through the roads and we had to slow down until we reached the Sierra Madre Resort, our starting point which by then was still closed to customers. It was pretty cold outside so some of the ladies had to wear light jackets initially and just strip them off at our vehicle support once they were fully warmed-up.

After running for a few hundred meters, I had forgotten to switch on my garmin so I spent the next few minutes fumbling with the dials in pitch darkness to get it to initialize and finding the satellite signal that I had to resort to walking to sort things out. Our target distance, a 30 kms out and back route, starting at the Sierra Madre Resort and turn back after the 15km mark, the same route we did early last year with the Takbo.ph runners.

As always, the fastest among us, Sylvia was raging in front followed by hubby Leo, Elaine, Alex then Betty. Tonet and I were at the tail-end, content with our 7:30 snail pace while taking pictures of the view.

Along the route, I found no less than 4 running groups, most of whom I had the pleasure of running together in different long runs. And like myself, they were coming to grips with the steep hills and getting those mileages up in their own training.

Below are some of the pictures that we took.

Barring any storms or typhoons, this is a great time of year to be running the hills of Tanay. It was cool and overcast (perfect running weather), the roads were dry and the trees and flowers were in full bloom after some rains we had the past few days. I would highly recommend Tanay to anyone looking for a different venue with that rustic, scenic view.

There was just one thing that marred this particular Sunday run and that was the pollution. Not air pollution by any means but the noise polluted by those thundering motor bikes that zigzagged the course and there were hundreds of them! Those powerful BMWs, Ducatis, Harleys, Kawasakis and other smaller bikes were ringing in my ears for several hours. Happens that there was this new motor bike track being inaugurated at the outskirts of the main highway and many groups and clubs of riders were on hand to witness the event.

We ran a total of 30.45 kms in close to 5 hours, including picture stops, eating and walking breaks (there goes my “break”!) It’s a tough but satisfying trot through the mountain ranges, a perfect venue to venture outside of the neighborhood and conquer those steely hills.

Starting on the right foot: A low mountain looms during the early part of the run

Foggy crest right along our course

One trail leading to the inner mountains of the Sierra Madre

That's Tonet running along the road signs

Facing a mountain wall

Tonet poses at the middle. No riders yet this early

About to pass two runners, one wearing a run united shirt

As green as it can get

Large boulders to sit by

One odd view along the highway

It's all downhill from here

A view from the other side, starring Tonet

A small waterfall along the road

Meeting Dyep and Danica along the road

Then there's Aileen and Glo

Team aNR UP-Heartbreakers!

Finally, we see Alex and Sylvia on their way back

Elaine and Leo were not far behind

The lady in (dark) pink?

"Thelma" look-alike? That's Betty who should have played the role of "Thelma's" mom:-)

Meeting Mila and her friend who were doing a 40k run

One of the route's breath-taking view

Riders begin to arrive in droves

A view at the 27th km mark

Finally back at the Sierra Madre Resort with Team CB and Team KTT

Rey, runner at left seems to have ran non-stop all his life

Trail / Mountain Run At The Angat Reservoir, Bulacan

Trail running has its special magic. It is mostly quiet with no cars and traffic to contend with. The scenes appear to change every few meters and you seem to be in sync with nature itself, appreciating unspoiled woodlands, rivers, vegetation and the like. Expect the unexpected as many experienced trail runners would fondly advise. The jazzrunner and his running friends were in for a surprise as the trails would lead to uphill mountain ridges, rock climbs and a great view of the Angat river basin and dam.

Last Sunday, we hied off to San Jose Del Monte (SJDM) in Bulacan to pick up non-running friends who were our main contacts in order to gain entry into the heavily secured Angat Water Dam and Reservoir. This Reservoir is strictly off limits to the public except when special requests are made in advance for groups who wants to tour the place. So Darryl, June and myself met up with Edwin Ang, our point man (June’s friend) and Joel Salazar, our main man who knew contacts inside the reservoir who would let us have access inside the reservoir.

We left SJDM at 6:00am and arrived at the first main gate of the reservoir at about 6:30am. Both reservoir and dam are located at the Angat River in San Lorenzo, Norzagaray, Bulacan. Its main purposes are to supply water in Metro Manila, provide irrigation for the provinces of Pampanga and Bulacan, to reduce flooding to downstream towns and villages and to generate hydro-electric power to feed the Luzon grid.

There are 3 main security checkpoints before we could reach the reservoir itself. We started our run at the first main security gate where we left June’s car which would be later driven by Edwin to follow us wherever we went.

Running up to the view deck

Running up to the view deck

The deck was about a kilometer away from the entrance

The deck was about a kilometer away from the entrance

We ran up to the main view deck where you could see a bird’s eye view of the reservoir.

Jazzrunner with Darryl

Jazzrunner with Darryl

With June on left

With June on left

Darryl with the best view

Darryl with the best view

From the view deck, we would later run down on the mountain slopes where lush green trees and other fauna were on both sides of the road, similar to those of back wood roads in Baguio City.

Enjoying the view

Enjoying the view

Air was still cool at this point

Air was still cool at this point

Taking our time

Taking our time

From the main road, we would enter trails that offers challenges in navigating its different terrain. We had to traverse dirt, pathways of dry leaves, grass, rocks and roots. Unlike running on paved roads in big cities, running trails is rarely monotonous.

Start of the trail run

Start of the trail run

There were even choices on what trail to run on. We chose the left trail

There were even choices on what trail to run on. We chose the left trail

Meeting a native of the place

Meeting a native of the place

It was a good day for a run, the early morning breeze was cool but the sun was about to come up. We all came prepared with our hydration belts, trail shoes with both June and Darryl wearing their caps on.

At the bridgeway

At the bridgeway

At the foot of another dam, the Ipo Dam

At the foot of another dam, the Ipo Dam

June arrives

June arrives

Our hosts, Edwin (second from left) and Joel (right). Once upon a time, i weighed nearly as much as Edwin's :-)

Our hosts, Edwin (second from left) and Joel (right). Once upon a time, i weighed nearly as much as Edwin's 🙂

After coming in and out of different trails, we were lead back to the main road which was now all 3kms of downhill. We were now running along another bridge way just atop the spill way. The view here was magnificent like we were on a lake somewhere in Europe.

The main reservoir in all its magnificence

The main reservoir in all its magnificence

Taking a pose

Taking a pose

Like a silhouette

Like a silhouette

There were still many trails that were to be discovered so off we went further…

Running near the dam's edges

Running near the dam's edges

More trees along our run

More trees along our run

Shade of trees kept us cool

Shade of trees kept us cool

Another trail among many others

Another trail among many others

Pushing thru inside

Pushing thru inside

Tall trees to keep us company

Tall trees to keep us company

Photo finish

Photo finish

Unto another wooded area

Unto another wooded area

Small rocks and roots were now all over the place

Small rocks and roots were now all over the place

Now threading in uneven surface

Now threading on uneven surface

Resting atop the turbines

Resting atop the turbines

Posing on the bridgeway

Posing on the bridgeway

Resuming our run on another trail

Resuming our run on another trail

Traversing a narrow path

Traversing a narrow path

Pumping for the top

Pumping for the top

No way but up

No way but up

Making our way to the top

Making our way to the top

Nearing the top

Nearing the top

Almost there

Almost there

Success!

Success!

Darryl running the muddy edges

Darryl running the muddy edges

The bane of trail running. A prelude to TNF trail race at Secobia?

The bane of trail running. A prelude to TNF trail race at Secobia?

Back on the dirt roads

Back on the dirt roads

An opening towards the lake

An opening towards the lake

Ahh...another magnificent view!

Ahh...another magnificent view!

Pose muna.

Pose muna

Tired and weary?

Tired and weary?

Navigating thru huge rocks to get a better view

Navigating thru huge rocks to get a better view

My turn to push down

My turn to push down

More rocks on way down

More rocks on way down

Now sprinting towards the top of the ridge

Now sprinting towards the top of the ridge

Rendezvous with Darryl

Rendezvous with Darryl

Nearing the head of the ridge

Nearing the head of the ridge

Nearing the lake

Nearing the lake

Sprint towards the end!

Sprint towards the end!

There!

There!

View at another angle

View at another angle

Short cooldown

Short cooldown

June, at peace with himself

June, at peace with himself

Darryl, testing the edges of the ridge

Darryl, testing the edges of the ridge. No way i'd do this!

Isa pang pasaway!

Isa pang pasaway!

Another memento with June

Another memento with June

Running back to main base

Running back to main base

On my way back

On my way back

June and Darryl in tandem

June and Darryl in tandem

Emerging from the woods for cooldown

Emerging from the woods for cooldown

Our main man Edwin preparing fire to cook our lunch

Our main man Edwin preparing fire to cook our lunch

Preparing the rice

Preparing the rice

And now, the best part...set on banana leaves, our lunch consisted of broiled tilapia and dalag, fresh from the Angat River, Rice, Shrimps, Bulalo and Pesang Dalag

And now, the best part...set on banana leaves, our lunch consisted of broiled tilapia and dalag fresh from the Angat River, Rice, Shrimps, Bulalo, Tomato Salad and Pesang Dalag

It was one of the most exhillirating trail/mountain runs we ever had and one of the most scenic. On this run, we had forgotten to track our time but time was not of the essence here anymore as we had before us spectacular views we wished would have continued on and on.

Our heartfelt thanks to Edwin Ang and Joel Salazar for their support and friendship for without them, this run would not have taken place.

We’ll see you on our next trail run.

THIS RUN IS DEDICATED TO THE COURAGEOUS PARTICIPANTS OF THE 1ST BATAAN DEATH MARCH 102K ULTRAMARATHON RACE THIS COMING SUNDAY, APRIL 05, 2009. GOOD LUCK AND SUCCESS TO YOU ALL!!!