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

K2C 50K: My ‘Rathoner’ Experience

The scene in front of the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit, Cavite last night, December 29, felt like New Year’s eve, people were on the streets reveling on some kind of festivity that was happening except that there were no deafening noise of fireworks, no church bells ringing, no hooting of horns, no banging and booming of pots and pans.

Minutes before the start

Instead, residents were greeted with the tumultuous presence of runners! And when me and the more than 600 of us took off at the starting line in front of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s ancestral home to tackle the Kawit to Calamba 53k Ultramarathon (K2C), it was like a “parada of runners” invading Kawit’s streets with different blinking lights adorning our foreheads, waists and caps to illuminate and guide us for the dark streets ahead that also looked like Christmas decors on our bodies.

When Judith Staples of Soleus, Head of the most popular GPS running watch in the country invited me to join this race, i was a bit hesitant knowing that my training has not been sufficient to tackle the distance. But then, the ribbing  and pressure mounted by friends followed and insisted that they too have not been training well but are joining just the same, so i gave in! Talk about peer pressure!

Goofing off with running friends while preparing our gear for the race

I’ve heard good things about Runmania Events, the organizers of this race that have been staging various ultra races in the south of Manila and attracting hordes of both regular and newbie ultra runners. I’m running their race for the first time and will soon find that out.

I arrived at the race venue 3 hours early with friends Vladz, Carlo and his friend, Michelle with the facade of the late Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s home all lit up in glitters and color. It was Christmas atmosphere on the parade grounds as we waited in line at the grandstand to claim our bib nos.  The energy and excitement from the grounds was just awesome.

With Team Soleus

The 11:00pm start was a bit delayed because people were still lining up to get their numbers but as soon as the race started, our huge journey to Rizal’s home town also began and we were all very excited!

The route is a mixed-bag of sorts. From the neighborly street near the shrine up to busy Tirona and Aguinaldo Highways, it was a challenge keeping up pace specially in dark areas where i had to adjust my headlamp many times and watch-out for drunks that come out of bars. I almost bump on one who was oblivious of the runners as he crossed our path.

At the 7th km mark, I had to leave my hydration backpack on our support car as the right strap was sliding off my shoulder so i used my reserved belt bag instead. I never worried about running out of water as the water stations were adequate as it came at every 5-7 kms as expected…and it was ice cold water at that! At around 11k, i made a pit stop at a Shell Gas station as i was experiencing some stomach discomfort and felt relieved after, even if i lost about several minutes of time there.

The best routes were in Daang Hari and Daang Reyna where the roads were quiet and you run in many diverse subdivisions. There were marshals stationed along strategic cross-roads and with them were route markers so you’ll never get lost along the way. The PAR running team was amazing as they offered their water and chocolates to any runner who happens to pass-by their aid stations. Thank you guys!

By KM35, i was already feeling exhausted which was probably my lack of long runs while training. The longest i ever did was a 27k LSD done 2 weeks before this race and i felt my energy dwindling when i reached past 32k. At km42, my thighs and quads were already screaming in pain so my walks became longer and the run part shorter. Thankful that a friend, Ener Galang decided to pace with me at this point and the stories we exchanged sort of distracted us from our discomforts.

The best thing that probably happened along the route was at an aid station when marshals were passing out ice cream in cones! That was really refreshing! While handing them out, they would ask your race number so you probably can’t get more than one piece. I could have probably finished 5 of those as it came at a time when you felt already exhausted, hungry and dehydrated!

I finished the race in about 8 hrs and 3 minutes and recorded in my Soleus Fit GPS a total distance of 52.8 kms. I came in at 379th out of 674 runners. I was surprised to see an ultra race this huge, and the organizers say this is the biggest ultra race staged so far in the country.

Finish Line of the K2C 50k Ultramarathon

When everything was over, the finishing experience was smooth and organized as you would expect.  The finish line tape, medals, nice dri-fit shirt and huge trophy were systematically given to all the finishers with properly rationed food and drinks for everyone.

There’s really very little negative to say about this ultra race although that’s not probably what you’ll be thinking when you reach km45 when your lungs and legs will be screaming in agony! The only negative i can think of is the claiming of the race packets a few hours before race time. With more than 600 runners, they should have distributed it days earlier so as not to delay the actual gun start.

But this is minor compared to the over-all experience which was great, and it’s pretty amazing how much planning, sweat, and security went into organizing this race. And i would highly recommend events of RunMania to anyone who is running their 1st or nth Ultramarathon.

Thanks to Judith Staples of Team Soleus and Pat Maranan and company of RunMania for this opportunity to run this race! To my co-runners Carlo, Bel and Vladz–you guys are great and to our support team Jarry, Edgar, Flor, Michi Ko and Michelle–you all are the best! Last but not the least, my team, Team 90%, my partners in crime!

Leaving you with some of the pictures during the run. (Thanks to my photographer friends).

This medal forms part of another medal, the other being an earlier race staged also by RunMania. I missed the earlier one.

With Flor, Bel and Michi Ko

With Lucky Jackie and Running Jack-PapaDyak

With my running partners

With Zaldy and Gia of Ayala Triads

Paced with this great guy during the last 11 kms, Ener Galang

With multi-awarded runner, long time friend and ultra finisher, Mommy Nora Del Rosario

With Mayette of Ekek Runners

Receiving my medal and the guy on the right seems impressed! 😉

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

1st Waldorf Trail Run: A Race Recap

My appreciation to trail running started when i joined my first trail race at Timberland Heights, the All Terra King of the Mountain Trail Run way back 2009. Trail running wasn’t that much popular then as now although The North Face Race series was already staging trail races much earlier.

I was so fascinated by the experience of running through wooded forests, river crossings, communing with nature and much more that i made it a point to run as much trails as i can, if time and opportunity permits. Succeeding races and training runs at Timberland ensued.

So last Sunday, i was back here to run the inaugural Waldorf  10k Trail Run. The Manila Waldorf is a school located inside the Timberland Heights, Filinvest Estate, just a stone’s throw away from the trail head. I wasn’t even aware that there was a school located inside this estate as we didn’t give much notice to the ongoing development in the area. After all, we came here for the trails!

Woke up early and arrive at the Centris Mall near Quezon Blvd at about 4:30 am so i could avail of the service vans which will take some of the runners to the race venue. I met with Mike Antigua, one of the race organizers who was overseeing the transportation of the runners and long-time running friend Dennis (the RunningPinoy) who was also running the 10k.

The race started a few minutes late as it was still dark in the area but we were off as soon as brightness lit up around us at about 6:15am. It was nice to be running on familiar terrain, the cool breeze was invigorating as we tackled the single track trails around the hill-tops at the beginning with the views of the Sierra Madre Mountains visible on either your left or right side.

As always, i brought in my camera and record some of the new trails that were part of the course.

There were adequate hydration stations every 2 kms of the route but i didn’t expect that this was going to be a no-cup race so you had to bring your own hydration bottle or container. I just had with me a bottle-full of Gatorade so when i wanted to have water, i used the cap of the blue plastic container that were on the tables, poured water on it and scooped right from it!

Approaching kilometer 8, we were diverted into a unused trail that cuts-off from the main road leading to the finish and the views here were wonderful and serene. I was on a roll during that time but stopped every time i saw a good view and took shots from my camera.

Race marshals were adequate although i wished they had deployed some during the last kilometer when runners were distracted at a road construction site where barricades were blocking the road so we had to stop and ask the workers on which direction to go.

Other than that, the over-all organization, water stations, trail route and volunteers were laudable! There were adequate food stalls selling breakfast meals at the school grounds although you could line-up and get free hot dogs on a stick or in sandwich buns as many times as you like.

However, one concern of mine was on the ruling with regards to the winners. They did not have separate categories for the over-all male and female winners. They just awarded the top 3 placers regardless of sex which i think was unfair to the female 1st placer. I brought this concern to Mike and he said that he would rectify this issue immediately.

Over-all, i think Waldorf did a commendable job in staging its first race and learning from some of the bumps on this fun run, they should be able to stage a better race hopefully next year!

Here are some pictures of the event:

With friends before the start

With Dennis Ravanzo (Running Pinoy)

The start was delayed for a few minutes because it was still dark

Busy taking some pics above these hills

Lucky to have good cool weather this morning

Downhill part slows down the runners

The route was gently rolling, no major shifts on elevations

Yours truly (in blue) keeping up with the pace (Photo credits, Carlo Unson)

Inside the forested area of the Timberland Heights

Many scenes like this inside the forest trails

Trail in one open area frequented by bikers. Luckily, no bikes were allowed inside the trails during race day.

A rotonda, of sorts

Part of the scenery, overlooking the wide Sierra Madre mountains

The last 3kms offered some very nice trails

Last 2.5 kms.

This is a new trail that wasn’t open to races before and i’m glad they let us pass through here for the first time

At approximately the last 1.2 kms.

There’s more of this hillside trails

A downhill dash

Then another short uphill…

The one final push before hitting the dirt road and to the finish

Long lines at the finish to get some free hot dogs

Families and friends were gathered to greet the runners

The Waldorf School “picnic grounds”

Dancing On The Trails Of Daranak

“Trail running is like dancing on the trails. If you stumble, make it part of the dance.” –rv

The Daranak 21k Trail Run has billed itself as the most challenging in the 3 legs of the Nature’s Trail Discovery Runs in Tanay and that proved to be an understatement! The race was grueling, one of the toughest trail race i have ever encountered and i am still limping from my aching quads and hamstrings in run-walking those uphill climbs.

I had expected this to be a difficult course but it was far more torturous than i anticipated, specially on those ridiculous technical climbs and descents. Well that was just the hardest part but for most of the other runners who did the shorter distances, it was a run full of thrills and adventure:

Here is a short synopsis of the race:

THE START:

4:50 am : June and i arrived at Daranak Resort and there were already full of cars lined-up on the streets leading to the entrance. We were asked to park on the right-most edge of the road as vehicles were arriving in droves.

5:10 am: We were greeted at the entrance by Norphy’s Ceasar Valderamma and told to proceed to the convention area where runners collected their race packets. June got his race packet and also took hold of Chito’s who we expected to arrive soon. Chito didn’t make it to the venue.

5:45: It was no less than Mr. Manny Santos, PIMCO Prexy and race organizer who started the countdown while Ceasar Valderamma fired the starting pistol.
During the test run we did weeks earlier, i had expected that we were to proceed to the river directly after the gun start but the organizers seem to have changed the plan.

Instead, we headed directly to the entrance bridge then out to the main street where we parked our cars and to some rough roads leading to a wide bridge. Runners stopped to take pictures. It was so wide a bridge for a river that looked like a single-track trail!

The view from the bridge (Photo by Jeffrey Ubalde)

Approaching the bridge while runners took some pictures

Past the bridge and going uphill

TO THE BATCAVE!

Runners were in for a treat when we approached the Calinawan Cave. I was a little concerned when my headlamp was going kaput when i tested it at home so had to change the batteries. I kept it in a small case attached to my hydration belt and as soon as we entered the cave, i wore it right back and it lit brightly as i turned it on.

I can hear the giggles of some runners when they maneuvered along the dark pathways and some even had to stop to observe the stalactites above them. This became like a school field trip instead of a race! No one could overtake so one has to toe the line and wait to move in tandem with the others.

To the cave entrance

Surprisingly, the walk to the cave was very orderly, no pushing nor shoving. There were marshals who guided the runners inside. Nice job!

The ground was mostly dry this time unlike our test run a month ago which was muddy and slippery inside

There were narrow passages that each runner has to wait to get through

The view inside

THE RIVER CROSSING:

This has got to be my least-liked part of the race when aside from crossing those rivers, you have to climb very wet boulders, secure your footing and cling to whatever your hands can grip on to avoid falling. This was the most dangerous part of the route and saw some runners slip on the rocks and fall down the river.

One scary part was one female runner stepped into a very deep part of the river and was swept by the strong currents and couldn’t hold on to anything. She was dragged a few meters and into a marshal who was standing on top of a boulder watching the proceedings. The marshal held on to an arm of the lady but couldn’t get her to stand up as if her foot was stucked underneath!

The lady was already screaming. She was gasping for air! Other runners scrambled to help and it took another minute before they could pull her up. This was one close call (pictures below).

The river trekking took forever and glad that it ended when it did!

Steep ravine at the edges of the trail that lead to the river

A long winding trail where you could already hear the gushing river at the other side

The first view of the river that greeted the runners

We had to criss-cross the river to avoid the strong currents

Climbing over slippery rocks was not an easy task

Clinging on rocks and getting the correct footing was the order of the day

A runner and a marshal rescues this female runner from being swept by the strong currents

Another runner to the rescue until she was finally pulled-out. The dangers of river crossing.

The river trek was slow. Getting up and down those rocks was a journey in itself

Glad to have avoided that downhill stream

River crossing na, may rock climbing pa!

Rock formations were a plenty during the river crossing. Must be centuries old

Part where a lot of runners slipped and tumbled

These bamboo poles were deemed useless because they were slippery when you tried to step over them

Stairs To OUR LADY OF RAWANG:

The only technique needed to conquer these flight of stairs is to put one foot forward in front of the other, one step after another until you reach the top. Easier said than done as i was going into zombie-mode just half-way this 346 flight of steps.

June poses while scaling the 340 step Grotto stairs

UPHILL CLIMB TO THE TOP:

Climbing up those mountain ranges was one tough battle all 21k runners had to endure and it had to be the most challenging of all legs of the Nature Trail Discover Tanay series. Your quads are going to hate you because they will keep on pounding while climbing on those continuous rocky trails! Many of the rocks had jagged edges and one false move can cut you up real bad.

I had slight cuts and scratches on my legs when moving about on the uphill trails and most of the runners who i encountered during the climb had their share of bruises and cuts too. I saw a runner who was lying down on the ground in pain, apparently of severe leg cramps and was being helped by two other runners.

None of the hard training could have prepared me for the torturous run up Masungi mountain and it was a long 5 kilometer trek to reach the peak! The trails up were priceless though and it had some of the most picturesque views in trail running.

Three hours had gone by when i finally reached the peak at about 1,600 masl. Not much excitement up there where i saw runners who were either eating, resting and taking pictures of the vast Laguna de Bay below. Here we were given a green ribbon signifying that we had reached the turn-around point and had to get back on the same route.

The downhill journey was harsher on our thighs as the pounding doubled, causing me to cramp on both thighs at the 16th km mark. The heat was enormous and I had to stop several times to massage my thighs and the ambulance waiting on the 18th km mark was no big help as they had no liniments nor knowledgeable personnel to give your leg a brief massage.

I noticed at this mark that runners should turn right and make a 2.5 km. circular loop before heading back to where the ambulance stood in the other direction. However i saw many runners skip this loop and immediately turned left without completing the loop. Marshals should have been stationed to man this checkpoint but it was only the ambulance truck that was there.

I finished the 22.1k race in 5:46, a PW (personal worst) but still below the given cut-off time of 6 hours.

Over-all, it was a great race, very challenging and one beautiful race route!

I’ll leave you with some pictures June and i took at the trails:

The start of our mountain trek

The single track trails were nice and easy during the early part but became very technical during those climbs up those mountains in background

Views of the Sierra Madre mountain ranges

Another view at close range

The 5-km uphill trek was both torture to the quads and feet.

Rocky single track uphill trek

On one of the mellower trails

One of the many picturesque trails

Blue skies and hot weather. Got hotter during the latter part

June signals that he is still alive!

Love this part of the trail…

…while June zooms along

Another rocky part

A wide trail

At the peak

Background is Laguna De Bay

Tough race! Congrats to all!

With Goldy, the “Precious” one

With Aquiz, the running photographer

With popular runner Marie Joyce Negapatan

With Manghusi (JR)

Guess what? PIMCO Sports, organizers of this event is going to hold another trail run, the Love A Tree International 50k-trail ultra-marathon on February 10, 2013 which will be held on a new route, also along these great trails of Tanay. An accompanying 6k, 12k and 24k race will be held here simultaneously.

Details will be posted on their Facebook account and website. Yikes, another trail run to look forward to!

My Run United Philippine Marathon Experience

Finally, it was great to complete the UNILAB Run United series with an emphatic exclamation point added to its final running event of the year, the 1st Run United Philippine Marathon (RUPM) which i finished last Sunday and what a race!.  This was only my second longest race of the year, the first being the Tagaytay To Nasugbu (T2N) 50k ultra-marathon done last May and lots of shorter races in between.

Run United’s inaugural marathon was supposed to come out with a bang; red carpet finish line, marching bands, Philippine miniature flags which were handed out a few meters from the finish, cowbells ringing to greet you at the home stretch and they sure delivered!

Just before the race

Before last Sunday’s marathon, never was i so pessimistic about this race knowing that i was going to do it “under-trained” which you might think is better than over-trained but the sloppy training schedule was really pathetic: 2-3 days a week, comprising two short runs of 8-12kms and my farthest week-end run of only 25kms with no cross-training in between. So, how would you survive a marathon with such inconsistent training? I was just lucky to have survived it, i guess.

With friend Jackie

Still, i was satisfied of my results despite the much slower finish time compared to my last marathon this past December at the Quezon City International Marathon.

Here are some highlights of the race:

ARRIVING AT THE MALL OF ASIA

The early morning began when good friend Jun Santiago and i arrived at the MOA at about 1:45am and immediately boarded one of the many shuttle buses that would take us for the 20 minute ride to Bonifacio Global City start line. This was our usual itinerary during the Run United run series when races start at the BGC and ends up at MOA.

JUN’S FIRST MARATHON

What’s significant about this race is this is Jun’s debut marathon and he’ll be finally doing it after years of prodding him to run one. I know he was shit scared but wouldn’t admit it and his aim was just to finish, regardless of time. I was confident that he could do it, though.

C-5 ROAD

Part of the RUPM route was C-5 Road, the main thoroughfare in Taguig and this was going to be the first time that runners will be running on this highway in a race. We exited at the back of Market-Market and traffic was building up that early as we merged with vehicles occupying just a lane to 3 lanes for the runners. True to what race director Coach Rio has told us prior to the race, police and marshals were seen deployed along the route and the highway was mostly well-lit.

I was somewhat distracted by the blaring of sound systems, videoke bars and the shouts of youths that were either cheering or jeering us until we reached the somewhat solemn area of the Heritage Park, another route which we hadn’t use in a race for a while.

BUENDIA AVE.

It was very unusual of a Run Rio organized race to run out of water on their hydration stations and more unusual to see nothing being replenished when i ran passed the whole stretch of Buendia Avenue. The tables were empty on the 5 hydration stations starting from the station fronting Jolibee, just before climbing up Kalayaan Overpass and it was like a desert afterwards. Good thing that i brought my hydration belt with a bottle of Gatorade that sustained me all along Buendia Ave.

Mini-Stop and 7-Eleven convenience stores must have had a field day as dozens of runners rushed to their doors and buy bottled water and brought them along for the rest of the run. I think the stations ran out of supplies because of the deluge of the 21k runners who were first to reach Buendia Avenue.

ROXAS BOULEVARD

The last 15k running this stretch was a bit of chaos as thousands of runners, bikers, rowers, walkers and Sunday strollers converged and made this stretch really crowded. And it was on this stretch that i did my run-walk routine just to have something in reserve at the end of the race. I saw my team mates Chito, Tonet and Sylvia, all encouraging each other while also noticing the strain on their faces. We were all hurting but we were moving forward.

The heat was beginning to set on us specially during the last 5 kilometers. I had to pour a lot of water on my head at all water stops thereafter and it did greatly to dissipate the heat.

Pouring myself some water along Roxas Blvd

Walking towards the last kilometer, i saw Tin Ferrera who took the time to pace me and pour some of her water on my head. This gave me some sort of a second-wind to sustain a run-jog pace where we were able to over-take a lot of runners. As soon as we reached the last 150 meters, Tin left as i continued to make that one final push.

With Ultra-runner Tin Ferrera

Thanks to Tin for the company!

The mood towards the finish was not only festive, it was also very heart-warming as i had goosebumps when running host-emcee Boy Ramos, his baritone voice booming, acknowledged my arrival and that really psyched me up to sprint the last 150 meters past the large cheering crowd as i crossed the finish line!

42k done in 5:51, a not too proud achievement but satisfied enough to be able to make it despite the sloppy training.

I was waiting for Jun and was a bit worried when i never saw him during the race. Elated when he called me up that he was done and finished in 7:09, his first marathon! Congrats, pre! Fotah…

Jun and i with the extra large 42k medal and finisher’s shirt!

RUPM was a great experience and i would definitely run this one again next year!

Thanks to the Running Photographers for some of the pictures used.

You can check out the race results here: http://unilabactivehealth.com/rununited/results.html