The Sierra 51050-50k Relay and Half-Marathon: A Short Race Recap

Taking our time at the Sierra Relay and Half-Marathon in Tanay, Rizal. (Photo by Running Jack Morales)

As a runner who has frequently ran the roads and trails of Tanay, i definitely supported the Sierra 51050 Relay and Half-Marathon as it brought many to see all the great scenery (and run-walk the killer hills) Tanay has to offer!

The race venue was at the Ten Cents To Heaven Resort, a previous starting venue of a trail race i once participated in. Race started on an easy downhill slope but the fast yet easy stroll over a secondary concrete road turns havoc when you start climbing it back and it’s about 2 kms of continuous uphill to get to the main highway. After that, you’re in for another 16 kilometers of rolling hills!

Having ran a 16-kilometer training run the day before, and a 10k tempo run 2 days prior, i ran this race at a very relaxed pace, taking it easy on the downhills and walking the steepest uphills on a brisk pace, whenever possible. No hurries!

There’s really no easy way to describe running the Sierra 51050. Organized by Rundezvous Events, it is just something you have to experience yourself:

  • Great venue for the race start and finish–the Ten Cents To Heaven Resort which is high above the mountains with a nice view of the Sierra Madre mountain range.

By the pool of Ten Cents To Heaven Resort

  • Cool Baguio-like weather greeting the runners as they preferred to huddle inside the hall to keep warm rather than venturing outside just before race start.
  • Major sponsors with their booths lined-up before the start. Freebies galore after the race. Thanks to Maxxed Running shoes, Light Water and Nutri Bar!
  • Running and chatting with two “fabulous” running divas-bloggers with talks ranging from bird collection to ultramarathons. Chatting to these two made walking the uphills easier.

With the two Divas, Cheapanngang Diva and the Running Diva

At a water station along Marcos Highway

  • Looking at all the Harley Davidsons and other powerful 500 cc motorbikes zoom past you along the highway.
  • Beautiful backdrops whichever way you look. There’s always something new to gaze at and scenery seem to constantly change every 10 seconds.

Along the race route

Refreshing rural settings

  • Looking at the relay runners tough it out with their support vehicles nearby shouting them some encouragements.
  • Adequate water at various aid stations except for the last turn-around when they ran out of it.
  • Making a new friend along the route where we discussed common friends, injuries and a hustler RD.

Hello to you again, Ms. Ae!

  • A very festive atmosphere during the awarding ceremonies as gift of sponsors were raffled off! Too bad i didn’t win the Spyder Optic Shades.
  • Finishers medal was nice, and the Finishers’ shirt was awesome! Hope they make it into a dri-fit shirt next time!
  • Very dedicated race organizers who did a great job, despite the finish line fiasco which affected some of the leading runners. Congrats to Pedz, the “Running Atom”, Chris, Abet, Allan, Za, Irish, Nette and the whole Rundezvous Team.

L-R: Allan Enriquez, Pedz, “Running Atom” Vedarozaga, Race Director and Abet Ocampo

With Zarina Segundo (of Rundezvous) in the dark

With Pat Concepcion and Rashel Pena

With Jun Santiago

If you live somewhere in the Metro Manila area and would like to go to out-of-town races which doesn’t take much time traveling too much, then this is DEFINITELY a race to check out not only because of its positive vibe, but because Tanay is a fun and cool place to be too!

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Trail Chronicles #22: Salomon City Trail Intramuros Run

It was great to be part of this first ever Salomon CityTrail 12k Run inside and around historic Intramuros in Manila where you get to immerse yourself in the walled city’s vintage atmosphere from start to end!

The start line was situated near the entrance of the iconic Fort Santiago where we were once brought as children on our first school field trip to study the life and death of our national hero, Dr. JP Rizal. And that was the last time i ventured into this place. From here, the short 12k course is a veritable festival of historical sights.

So what is a CityTrail (or CityTrail running), one might ask? How could it be possible to have trails similar to Tanay, San Mateo or on wooded forests when this one is located in a highly urbanized, old city like Manila?

Well, it’s a venue event label by Salomon, the shoe brand that brought us their famous trail running shoes. The  CITYTRAIL™ Races are part trail and part concrete running events that challenges runners to explore different terrain settings like pathways, bridges, tunnels, grass, stairs, etc. within urban landscapes simulating those in trail running. And what better venue to exemplify this than the historic Spanish and World War 2 settings of Intramuros!

We were lined-up and took our positions at the back for the 4:30pm start with about 500 other 12k runners. I was with Terri Boyce, a Balikbayan friend and a marathoner who had just arrived from California for a very short visit. Seeing some of the old churches and Spanish-era buildings just a few minutes from the start, we decided to be  kitschy tourists and had to stop several times from running to snap some pictures on both sides of the road.

The 12k route is grand (on a small scale) and quite scenic taking both the old, unrestored ruins and the newly restored buildings into account. Among other things, we ran past the Palacio Del Gobernador, the just restored and re-opened Manila Metropolitan Cathedral, the San Agustin Church, Ayuntamiento, Revellin De Recoletos and through a lot of old elevated pathways, thick stone wall corridors and narrow streets in the oldest parts of the walled city.

Running the entire route leisurely took us more than 1.5 hours including the photograph breaks and chatting with the marshals who are also friends in the running community. And there were lots of stops where you can walk and just take pictures so this is a run where you just say the heck with the time and just enjoy the fresh ambiance of old Manila.

As for the race, it was well organized–water stops were plentiful and exceptionally managed as there were jugs separately for Gatorade and you can even have ice cubes, if you want. There were enough volunteers in each aide station ready to assist which were strategically positioned so there’s not a herd of people rushing to one area. The marshals were awesome, cheering us whenever we reached their stations (they were all friends, btw).

The only drawback of this race was that near the end of the 4th loop, some of the 12k runners were mis-guided to turn right towards the finish line when they should have been directed towards the last 2km loop thus missing the pink wrist band given somewhere on this loop that would have been a pre-requisite to get a medal.

Inspite of runners’ protest, volunteers at the medal tent won’t give the medals until they can show a pink wrist band. Well, given the ingenuity of runners, they came back to the volunteers after a few seconds dangling the pink band on their wrists! Go figure! 🙂

Over-all, it was a cool and decent race. Got this very nice medal, a nice box of snacks, there was a lot of interesting things to see on the route which I can’t say for other races.

I’ll give this race a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars!!

You can check out the race results here: http://www.results.runningmate.ph/index.php/event/result/173

Here are some pictures taken along the route:

At the Fort Santiago gate in Intramuros a few minuted before the race. L-R: Me, Terri, Rhett, Franc and Rodel

At the starting line

The Intramuros river, a view at the starting line

Governor’s Palace

Plaza San Luis Complex

Ayuntamiento

Revellin De Recoletos

Baluarte de San Diego

Baluarte De San Gabriel

Pamantasan ng Maynila

Baluarte De Dilao

Bayleaf Hotel

Casas Consistoriales

Muralla Street

Hi Terri!

Balluartillo De San Jose

Jackie, Rodel, me and Rhett

With actress Rian Ramos

Dining at Dampa, Macapagal Avenue after the run

Wall To Shotgun 10 Mile Challenge: Race Recap

If there was one truly hilly race in the metro that would bust your lungs and may want you to rush for the nearest exit, then last Sunday’s Wall To Shotgun 10 Mile Challenge Race would be it! It’s probably the last resort a Race Director would have– a super hilly venue to hold a race given the usual, often-used routes many runners now shy away from.

Coach Roel Ano’s Wall To Shotgun 16.8k is a very challenging race through and through. It’s a tough course but if you have run other road and trail courses, it won’t be anything you can’t handle (Salomon Trail Run, Nathan Ridge Run, PIMCO-Tanay Trail races, cover the same tough hills). The only thing that hindered this race was the presence of cyclists, with dozens of mountain bikers and hikers sharing the roads with you.

A portent of things to come

The uphills going to Timberland which to many is called “The Wall” (where the start and finish line are located) and Shotgun Road are really home to cyclists trying their mettle in uphill biking so the course began to really get crowded during the latter part of the race. Regardless, the event was very well organized with marshals manning the course and sufficient hydration stations positioned in strategic areas.

Coming back from Shotgun Road

Fortunately, the temperatures were mild Sunday morning with overcast clouds trying to shade us for most part of the run. I could probably count the number of kilometers that i actually did “run” and maybe half of the 16 km distance i did by walking the uphills! Walking up the “Wall” part TWICE was a seemingly endless ordeal. It lasted about 2.8 kms of continuous uphills but seemed like forever!

At the turn-around point of the WALL

However, once you finish the second turn-around point up that newly opened subdivision with a nice view of the city, you are basically home free. Two kilometers to go of downhill running and when you think you’re just a few steps left before the finish, you are directed to a backdoor alley down to various steps leading to the backyard of the Divine Mercy Shrine.

As i was running all alone, it felt eerie at that place that i had to rush out of that area as fast as i could, which was probably my fastest part of the run before exiting to the main road and on to the finish.

Sharing the road with cyclists

I finished the race distance (16.4 on my Soleus Fit) in an excruciating 2:30:07, almost the same time i did at the RU1 21k the week before! Hahah..!

This was one of the most challenging 10-miler i’ve done. I hope Coach Roel can rectify the course a little bit next time by foregoing the second loop towards the Wall and instead extend the distance in other areas like the Shotgun Road area or perhaps extend the course up to the Timberland Sports Club and beyond if permits are not a problem.

My Soleus family

We didn’t get to join the Boodle Fight after the run as we knew it would be crowded so me and running buddy Rhett just rushed out to get our fill at Vivian’s Tapsilogan in Marikina.

This is an epic race from Coach Roel, organized as his birthday run and it sure did fulfill a tough but satisfying event! Saludos, Coach Roel!

Basta Bisaya, Gahi!

(Check out for the race results here:  http://www.results.runningmate.ph/index.php/event/result/152)

Love A Tree 32k Trail Race Recap

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.

Running buddies Jun and Rhett

Instead of using the entrance bridge going to the Tinipak rocks, we were detoured to cross this shallow part of the river. No to bridge toll fees! 🙂

You can miss this scenery, on our way up to the trails of Tinipak

Chinky and Dave

Ashley, Rhon and Aldrin

The trail along the river banks

This was on our way back with about 3 kms to go

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

Anawim Grace Run: A Short Race Recap

This is probably the “coolest” race that i have joined in. And i say it literally as the temperature last Sunday dipped down to about 15 degrees as we were warming up for the 5:30 a.m. start of the Anawim Grace 10K Run at Frontera Verde in Pasig.

The weather couldn’t have been better and the course itself was challenging, passing around Julia Vargas-Lanuza Avenues and the hilly St. Paul Street before heading back and it was a nice change of scenery from the usual week-end race venues in the metro.

A few minutes before the start

The course is almost flat until you reach the 2km mark when you venture up St. Paul Street, nothing a runner can’t handle. The race itself went by faster than I had expected. The turnaround for the 10k was about near the top of St. Paul and there was adequate water stations.

The route goes for two loops but i noticed the lead runners making an extra loop and this sowed confusion among other runners who were following their tails. Seems that an over-zealous lead marshal made them do another turn until other marshals realized the mistake and corrected the situation.

The roads is virtually void of vehicles and cyclists at those hours so it allows a perfect opportunity to take in that part of the city without all the extra traffic of people.

Going up St. Paul Street

Along Lanuza Avenue

The finish would have been exciting if not for the crowd of runners that blocked the finish line area. It also didn’t helped that the lady marshals who were giving out the medals were also in front of the finish line so you had to stop first a few meters before the finish arc to have the ladies award you the medals then continue walking to the finish.

Other than this minor hitch, i think the race organizers did a splendid job over-all, putting to good use the route which was an ideal race venue, more than enough courteous marshals, both on foot and on wheels who controlled traffic and cheered you along the way and the adequate water at the aid stations!

A big plus too was the food offered at the sponsors booth as we lined up for unlimited raisin/wheat bread, rice cereals and washing it down with Monster Energy Drinks.

A big shout-out to the Pinoy Aspiring Runners (PAR), for their grand debut in organizing this race and to Zalds Carlon Loreta for the opportunity in joining this run for a cause. A return engagement should be in the offing!

Approaching the finish line

With the big man of Corregidor, Coach and RD of the Corregidor Marathon and Half-Marathon, Edward Tito Kho who also ran the race.

Monsters Mars and Saul

NTDR Leg2: El Putikan Trail Run

It’s one of those rare thoughts that i wished i was just snugged tightly in bed early yesterday morning, enjoying the cool breeze permeating from my bedroom window while i was out there sweating it out in Tanay running the 21k PIMCO Nature’s Trail Discovery Run (NTDR).

The constant rains and the onslaught of typhoon Santi really wrecked havoc on the trails and it just felt natural for most of the runners to fall, slip, slide, crawl, ski and everything in between on the trails of mud. It was a trail-fest of sludge! And it was hard for me to get to grips running on this slippery surface as i kept on sliding down those hazardous slopes.

Nature forgive me for the number of small branches i must have broken while trying to cling on them while crashing downwards! The ropes that were provided along the steep ascents and descents were barely of help, but this provided me my safety harness as i nearly fell off from the edge of a cliff and i was hanging on for dear life and eventual embarrassment as i literally came into grips with the rope and the river below while the other runners that came after me just watch in suspense!

Funny that the first thing that came into my mind during that struggle to get myself up was to ask, “does anybody have a camera here to take a picture of me?” Had i blurted out those words, i would have probably been kick off  by the others down that cliff!

The culprits

After last Sunday when i ran the RUPM 42k, i was in the mode of just taking it easy for the rest of the week prior to yesterday’s trail run but sometimes, shit happens. The day prior to the race, a team mate celebrated her birthday and so we had breakfast with the rest of the team. Not contented, we proceeded to Betty’s house and continued the celebration with a few drinks. By the time i realized that i was running the NTDR the following day, i already had way too many of the Double Black that was served so by the time we went home, my body was already aching to sleep!

After just a few hours of sleep, i woke up at 1:00am, head still spinning, so i took a shower, prepared some stuff for my hydration back-pack when running buddy June arrived. I was able to take a few bites off a hotdog sandwich at a 7-Eleven convenience store and that was to be my breakfast!

We arrived at the Epic Rainforest Park in Tanay at about 4:15am with thick fog enveloping the vicinity around the area. In a few minutes, about 15 brave souls running the 50k Ultra-trail race were sent-off. I opted to run the 21k as a recovery run to the previous Sunday’s Run United Philippine Marathon as i’m still in the grips of a stubborn acid-reflux which has been recurring (thanks to my friends, JW and Alfonso) plus the aches on my thighs so i was taking this one as just one fun run. And what one hell of a fun run it was!

The 21k runners were fired off at exactly 5:00am, still pitch dark outside of the gymnasium where we started.

With June. Nice to use once again our head-lights for this trail event. Race
started at exactly 5:00am

Markings on the trail

The first 2 kilometers was a gentle downhill, our headlights blinking down from our heads while the cool breeze was pleasantly blowing at our faces. By the 3rd kilometer entering a forest trail at the rear of the Park, things began to get sour as we faced the first of our water loo when we had to struggle on what was like an obstacle trail course.

The trails were deep in a forest on mostly single tracks with short but very steep, almost 90 degree ascents where you held on to ropes, branches and trunks of small trees to propel yourself up! Several times, we had to stall and wait in line for each runner to figure out where to step, cling and move his/her butt up, all in total darkness with just our headlamps as guide.

Other times, we just had to give a push or pull up the one behind us in order to start on the next obstacle after another. Worst, some branches were suffuse with thorns so many of us had cuts and blood oozed from our hands.

The second waterloo was, for me the more dangerous one as it was all MUD galore while you go downhill. Not even the best trail shoe out there could put a break on the very slippery slopes. Runners went berserk clinging to plants and branches while literally rolling down like a wheel, others sat down and just slid down on their butts like what children do when they slide on those sliders at playgrounds.

With runners breathing down my neck, i didn’t have much time to think, a quick reaction was just required so i moved, fell, got up and moved again. Runners on trails are helpful, chatty, fun to be with and will even ask if you’re ok after a nasty fall.

This was just the first 5k and the next 16 k have a story of its own. I was now lagging behind with just a few 21k runners behind me and the long stretch of trail outside of the park was what regular runners of the Tanay Trail Discovery Run were pinning for, the breathtaking scenery, various river crossings, single track trails, mountain ranges, a highway route and the extra servings of mud which we really didn’t expect to be trail-wide and this kept the run more daunting and challenging!

This trail route used parts of the previous NTDR Buddy Run which pass through Sitio Maysawa, into small villages and back. For more than six hours, i was running side by side with June who was as exhausted run-walking the craggy uphill and downhill slopes. There were enough water along the water stations and the organizers even provided sponges and bananas.

Over-all, this race for me was the hardest i have ever done, considering that my time at the RUPM Marathon was even faster that what i had registered here for this 21k trail race! Go figure!

PIMCO’s last  trail race, the NTDR finals will be held on November 24 and i’m just looking forward in doing better–all for the love of the trails!

Here are some pictures taken during the race. Thanks to my friends for providing me some of the pictures posted here!

A runner refreshing himself while selfieying (is there such a word?)

Best way to keep off mud from the shoes

From mud to sludge, lots of these on the trails

Mud all over, from head to foot!

Trail leading up to Maysawa

Water pods along the trails

Bafefoot Voltron emerges from the trails

This scene is one of my favorite parts of the trail

With “Sinusikat” Runner (L) and her friend

Runners emerging from the turn-around point of the 21k route

Another stream crossing

Taking off the mud from my shoe

3rd river crossing

The uphill trail 1km from the finish line

Back to the back-door entrance of Epic Park

The last 400meters with scenes like these

Bruised and muddied but not down!

Lunch on a road-side cafe with Jun and Iris

PhilHealth Run Manila: Race Recap

I ran the PhilHealth 18k run last Sunday to get my usual week-end long run fix as i wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this race. It was going to be one of those long, relaxed runs to gear up for my upcoming Run United 21k next month.

However, i knew this was going to be one of those mega runs where you get to jostle with thousands who have registered for this race, many of them joggers and week-end runners who would crowd on the narrow east lane of Roxas Boulevard.

As expected, the route became very crowded, specially when the 3k, 5k and 10k runners were sent off one after the other. The scene was like of ants coming from the north and south bound lanes and bumping into each other during the turn-around points!

I had to stop and walk several times to find a way how i could pass through without encroaching into the opposite lane! Despite the mayhem, the race went on without any major hitch as marshals courageously directed traffic as they urged runners to move, move, move! (Imagine groups of 3k runners stopping at the 3k turn-around sign-board just to take pictures!) The crowd would later thin out once you get pass through these turn-around choke points.

These odds were all stacked against the organizers but surprisingly, the event was well-run, very organized with very well placed hydration stations that you would never worry about getting a drink on your next stop as the tables were well-stocked! Oh, they were even passing out bananas at around the 6th and 8th km marks and these was a boon to us running the longer distances.

The only real kink to this race was that the route got too tiresome as the 18k runners, starting from Km Zero had to turn around at the foot of the EDSA flyover on the way back to Luneta only to turn-around again upon reaching Pedro Gil so we were en route back to Edsa to make the second and final turn-around before heading straight back to the Quirino grandstand at Luneta for the finish line.

I wish they would have extended the run towards MOA then to Macapagal Avenue, get the extra distance there then turn back towards the finish line.

With PhilHealth as the main proponents of this race with the Philippine Children’s Medical Center and the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital as beneficiaries, this run was held in 18 other major sites throughout the country so major support was given to assure the success of this run.

Over-all, the energy put into this race was tops and kudos to race Director Edward Kho for directing such an extra ordinary event. Our heartfelt thanks to to Ms. Claire Papa of RiteMed-Unilab, major sponsors of the race who provided us media and bloggers breakfast and refreshments after the race.

There’s not much pictures in here, just mementos before and after the race.

With running buddy Jun moments before the start

A medal at the finish line

With Claire of Unilab, Jun, Pedz and Ped’z friend at the Manila Hotel

I probably lost 2 lbs after our 18k run but gained it back (and more) a few minutes later after this hearty breakfast! 😦