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

PIMCO 1st Trail Runners Awards Night

Yesterday, i had my mind set on attending the 1st PIMCO Trail Runners Awards Night at the Grand Pearl Room, Room 498 Center in Mandaluyong City. It’s probably the first time that a Trail Runners award would be given out to acknowledge trail runners for their dedication, ranking and standing in the various PIMCO trail races that were held last year.

1st Annual Trail Runners Award by PTRA

(Photo by M Degollacion)

I was really surprised finding a big crowd of runners attending the festivities. I was late coming in for the 6:00pm affair and didn’t notice any person crowding outside the building except for the 3 people at the registration table stationed at the ground floor. Upon entering the grand hall on the 2nd floor, the place was bursting with people, mostly awardees of the top PIMCO 100 trail runners on both the 21k and the 10k categories.

I took the last available seat at the back but was immediately led to the dining area first by gracious hosts while listening to the welcome speech of PIMCO President Manny Santos.

For a race organizer new to running or more so trail running, 2012 was a banner year for the Philippine Trail Running Association’s (PTRA) series of Trail races in Tanay which is under the auspices of Pimco Sporting Events. It’s advocacy for environmental protection and preservation of forests and mountains that includes tree planting, immediately spread like wild fire (no pun intended) to trail and mountain running enthusiasts.

The Love A Tree Discovery Run was their first salvo into Tanay’s trails, and i still recall running on the main highway combined with rough roads and trails plus long river crossings. Then the Nature’s Trail Discovery runs followed which was a Trilogy that culminated with a 21k lung-busting uphill climb on mountain trails near Daranak Falls.

I myself was a witness to this sort of mini-boom of trail running in Tanay. I encountered countless of torturous mountain climbs,  dangerous river crossings, on occasion lack of hydration and banana stations (hahah..) but then nothing beats the immeasurable amounts of fun and the gorgeous scenery that you won’t find in road running.

So back to the awarding ceremonies. The PTRA Running award categories include:

Best Team Award – (Sigue Correr)

Best Runner Photographer  –  (Ella MaraMelanie Dator Perez and from Team USB are co-awardee)

Best Trail Running Partners – ( Federated Distributors, Norphl and Tanay Mountaineers )

Trailblazers Award and Top 100 Trail Runners Award

Trail Runner of the Year Awards

Most Promising Female Trail Runners – (Alexandria Ahongon and Ellen Tolentino)

Best Media Partner –  (Manila Broadcasting Corporation (MBC)

Best Trail Running Blogger

The trail runners of the year were a revelation to some but came as no surprise to those who were regular participants of the Tanay trail race series. Goldy Dela Cruz and Maynard Degollacion were the Trail Runners of the Year for the 21k category while Robert Fiesta Ramones and his counterpart Iris Charine Torculas romped off as top runners for the 10k category.

21k  Female Trail Runner of the Year Award, Goldy Dela Cruz who won a Viking Trail Shoe from Norphl big boss, Cesar Valmadrid (middle)

10k Trail Runner of the Year Award, the statuesque Iris Torculas

With the male Trail Runners of the Year,  Maynard Degollacion (21k) extreme left and Robert Fiesta Ramones (10k) extreme right. Race Director Alvin Balderama (middle)

Also, awards went to the top 50 21k and 10k trail runners and to the 71 Trailblazers (Trilogy Finishers) which had them wearing nicely crafted medals.

To add to the above distinguished list of awards given, those included were, the Best Runner Photographer (individual and group) and the Best Trail Running Blogger of the Year Awards. The Individual Best Photographer was awarded to Ella Dator Perez while the group photographer went to Team USB.

To close out the awards given last night, yours truly was presented as the Best Trail Running Blogger for ” in recognition for outstanding contribution in the development and promotion of trail running through his blog”. Thank you so much, PTRA/PIMCO!

With Norphl President Cesar Valmadrid and Pimco Race Director, Alvin Balderama

Unprepared for this..

Thank you! (sniffs)…

Here are more pictures during the awarding ceremonies last night:

PIMCO President, Manny Santos

21k Awardees

10k Awardees

Wacky shot!

With Team Rock and Road

Goldy showing off her Trail Runner of the Year and Trailblazer medals!

One of the unusual picture poses!

Finally settling for a pause

During a break

Youngest trail runner (?)

Showing off their medals

So what’s in store for Pimco’s trail races for 2013? In case you didn’t know yet, a 50k ultra-marathon is scheduled this coming February 10, 2013 along with shorter distances of 24k, 12k and 6k runs. Few slots left so why don’t you register now?

See you February 10!