Trail Chronicles #9: Pintong Bukawe

We first discovered these wooded trails way back in 2009 when me and running buddy June Santiago were first enthused into trail running. Tucked behind the sprawling Timberland Heights in San Mateo, Rizal, it stretches far north-west to Wawa in Rodriguez and Calawis in Antipolo on the east side.

Last week-end, June and i re-visited the place as we retraced the route of last year’s Merrell Trail run, only– we did the reverse of the route and ran other outlying trails that were not used in the original course. The endless kilometers of trails and rough roads leads you with a beautiful stretch of untouched surroundings and will find you gasping from an overdose of the place’s delightful scenery.

The richly forested trail has an elevation gain of about 446 meters. We started off near Camp Sinai and worked our way to a gentle descent down the main river. It’s a moderate trail, not too hilly at most and crosses the river several times.

These are not well-trodden trails but any beginner in trail running should enjoy some of the most beautiful and untouched landscape San Mateo has to offer. Regular trail runners are constant visitors to this place and it’s easy to do a regular 10k up to 50k if you’re among enthusiasts of ultra trail running.

I’m leaving you with our pictures from this trail run adventure. Enjoy!

At the entrance trail to Mt. Sinai

One of the few eateries at Mt. Sinai

A cow blocks our path

This is what we call the albino tree trail

Overlooking the Sierra Madre mountain range

Finally, a glimpse of the river

Cassava plants adorn this river

These 4 year old kids just cross the river instinctively, no hesitations, balancing acts–done in a few seconds! Took us a minute to figure out where to make those steps! 🙂

The kids were now way ahead of us

These delicious-looking grape fruits were all over the place

Selfie and sun block galore!

Running in Pintong Bukawe would not be complete w/o eating at “Giant”. But the “paluto” here has now become over-priced! 😦

Dave’s “Lost World” Trail Route

Ultra runner David Buban’s home in Marikina Heights has for long been a meeting place for runners wanting to run the Shotgun route and Timberland trails in San Mateo, Rizal. I’ve ran this course sometime last year and coming from his place, he has this well-planned circuitous route that travels on back-door villages in Marikina en route to San Mateo.

Team mate Chito Carreon had invited me to Dave’s and do this route once again. So, i got up early last Saturday, met Chito at McDonalds in Katipunan and made another quick stop at a McDonalds branch in Marikina for some sandwiches and coffee before we headed to Dave’s place.

Our group with David (second from right) L-R: Mar, Rhoda, Marjohn, Aleth, Reylynne, CJ, me, Dave and Shiela. Chito was taking the picture.

Mar and Chito at Silangan, San Mateo, Rizal

We were with 9 other runners, most of them long time friends in our local running circle.  So we start the run and traverse through rolling hills on small communities that passes inside San Mateo on the way to Timberland Heights.

Less than 2 kms before the assault to Shotgun Road, we make a stop-over to Aling Tina’s, a small popular eatery that caters to both cyclists and runners. It’s to fuel us for that one hard long climb. I ate some porridge with egg and stashed some bananas in my hydration pack. The others did too and then we were off.

Morning break at Aling Tinay’s

Shotgun Road

So it’s about a kilometer away from Aling Tina’s and we reach our run’s most notorious challenge, Shotgun Road, rising some 411 meters in several agonizing flights and measures at about 3.8kms. Even the fittest of the fit will surely jog-walk this road or they suffer cardiac arrest completely! So all of us were just too content to do a walkathon and see who reaches the trails of Timberland first.

Part of the 4 km uphill road
Inside the Timberland trails

Perfect weather, dry trails–a go for trail running

Shiela, Dave and Aleth were with me, the last group

With Aleth and Marjohn

The entrance to Dave’s trail

I’ve ventured on many parts of the Timberland Heights trail system and i knew there were still many areas that i have not really checked into and imagine my surprise that there was this trail just on the south eastern side of Maarat that Dave showed us. It runs from one end of Sapinit Road that loops back on the eastern side going westward.

It has several kilometers of trails and dirt roads winding through evergreen forest, lines of pine trees, wild flowers and boasts lush sceneries of mountain tops. Since Dave has tried to describe this as the “Lost World” Trail run, we decided to name this trail as Dave’s Lost World Trail.

Here are some of the pictures of the trail:

From the looks of it, you know you’ll be running in peaceful surroundings

The Y junction. Take the right trail

Bounded by trees that provided shade along the route

A trail perpendicular to the main road

One of the very few houses that were seen along the route

Nice, cool, woodsy–a secluded part of Maarat

Dave forges ahead

Several uneven surfaces brought about by heavy rains recently

The mountain hills of Timberland where we came from, at the background

Long stretch of dirt road

We took a break on this road side stall which would have offered a nice view of the city had it not been for the overcast skies

Lots of trails to discover, wish we had more time to check them out

Above the mountains of San Mateo, Rizal

It’s all downhill from here

Cloudy skies as it was going to rain in a little while

Yes it rained and we were going to be stucked in this seminary for about 20 mins

My favorite view of the trail

We covered a total of 33.7 kms of mostly uphill runs in almost 6 hours including time spent on a seminary while waiting for the heavy downpour to stop.

It was a very thrilling run, not to mention the excitement of running on a new trail and being with friends who share the same passion as i do.

Keep watch on this trail as a 10k and 21k race is being planned for October 2013 to cover this route!

Race Report: Merrell Adventure Run 2013

The local folk song, “Planting Rice Is Never Fun” has never been so apt in describing the farmers’ hardships and sacrifice while toiling their lands to plant rice and other crops for our staple food and that of their sustenance. The lyrics…

Planting rice is never fun,
Bending over ’til the set of sun.
Cannot sit, cannot stand,
Plant the seedlings all by hand.

I’m sure many runners at yesterday’s MERRELL Adventure Trail Run got a glimpse of this experience, although just fleetingly and without even bending to plant anything.

I was giddy and apprehensive at first when we approached this tiny rice field after a race marshal informed us that we had about 5kms to go on our 21k run. No inkling whatsoever that another major obstacle was just a few meters ahead. Seeing the runners wade through this slimiest of mud, clenching their shoes on one hand and using the other for balance, we got the drift that if you wore them on, the shoes would get stuck under it and would be hard to retrieve them.

So while wading on just about 20 meters of this paddy that’s knee deep, felt like a quick-sand and very muddy, me and the others got to experience a very yucky feeling while stepping on some bulge on the soft ground that’s very slippery and slimy…you get to trash underneath on Carabao’s poop that lies together with the mounds of mud under it!

When we emerged from this “obstacle”, the stench on all of us was very revolting as we all smelled like “carabao shit”, from head to toe! No water was immediately made available when we landed on dry ground so we just used the grass to wipe-off the mud clinging to our toes, calves, hands and knees. This may well be Merrell’s version of the X-Terra Race, “Putik Pare” (Mud Run) and what better term could you call this but the “Pooh-Pooh, Pare”!

This was actually the second of two muddy obstacles, the first which came after the 8th km mark when we had to crawl for about 15 meters beneath a chicken wire and sharp bamboo twigs dangling in our heads  where the crowd got backed-up to wait for their turn.

To sum up the race, here’s  some observations/notes which i took during the race:

  • The 21k race route was awesome… great scenery, trails galore, river crossings, mountain ranges
  • Though views were beautiful, the course itself was very difficult! Lots of uphills (so lots of walking), some of the downhill parts were very steep and slippery as i saw a lot of runners slide down, tumble and roll from side to side with some injuries
  • Though not frequent, water supplies were adequate and they served really ice-cold water with cubes of ice that you can place in your hydration back pack.
  • Race Marshals were adequate and were in crucial junctions to guide the runners
  • Mud-pit crawl area should have been placed on a wider road. The area was too narrow, only 3 rows of runners could be accommodated so there was a huge back up at the entrance
  • It was so nerve-wracking that the last kilometer was all uphill and we had to stop-and-go several times before hitting the finish line. A marvelous moment though when you reach the top!
  • Race Director Thumbie Remigio was hands-on, observing the conduct of the race at many points along the course, even taking pictures while at it. Good job, Thumbie!
  • Thanks to lady Runner #97 for the push at the back to get me over the rice paddy.
  • At the turn-around point at the end of the river crossings, there was a woman half submerged in water singing religious songs on the top of her lungs which the race marshals fondly described as a “Shokoy” (half-human, half mammal)! LOL!
  • The bamboo barricade obstacles was absolutely ——! A nuisance rather than an obstacle. 🙂
  • Showers with soap were adequately provided near the finish area but had to spend another hour or so at our bathroom at home to scrub and scrape out all residual slime in my body
  • Bread, eggs, bananas and water bottles were also given to all runners

This is probably one of the best trail runs ever organized and obviously, a lot of preparation had gone into it. After those grueling uphills and downhills, stumblings and tumblings, continuous river crossings, mud crawls, the pooh-pooh walk and the last insane crawl to the finish, i finally made it to the finish in about 4 1/2 hours!

A very satisfying event and a great memory to bring home! Congrats to the Merrell people and to RD Thumbie Remigio!

I’m leaving you with some of the pictures i took from the race. Other photos courtesy of Thumbie Remigio!

See you all at the PIMCO Run2Run Adventure Trail Run in Tanay, Rizal next Sunday, May 5! (https://jazzrunner.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/pimcos-run2run-trail-run-in-tanay-may-5-2013/)

For more updates on trail runs, follow me on TWITTER @ https://twitter.com/jazzrunner

RACE RESULTS are now out! Here is the link: http://www.strider.ph/

The views around us before the start

With friends and our clean apparels before the run

On an uphill double-track trail

The trek to the first river crossing begins

Threading in slowly as the rocks under the river are unstable and slippery

A river trail, literally with cassava plants watching the proceedings

The views can’t get any better to take pictures during rush hour

The first mud-pit obstacle (photo by Thumbie)

Long lines waiting

This is another river crossing

Slippery rocks really slowed the runners down

The heat was just overwhelming so it was on shades like this that we had time to rest

Friend June, enjoying the scenery

A long and winding dirt road

The rice paddy

Mud looks like soft cement

Pooh-pooh pare!

Time-out!

Getting out of the water was another obstacle

I lost my water bottle here

Good job leaving your Poo-pooh, Mr. C!

Bamboo barricades

An instant Vibram Five-Fingers minimalist shoes

Single-track trail descending to another river

Another shaded path

This lady (L) literally pushed my butt so i could emerge up from the rice paddy. Thanks, Mam! 🙂

The last 2kms was a grueling uphill climb. This is the last 500 meters

Over-took this lady who was struggling to ascent like all of us did.

Dang uphill!

Last 350 meters and counting. the “Moses tablets” is in the foreground

So near, yet so far!

No, that’s not a calf compression i’m wearing. It’s the sticking mud we all got from threading the rice paddy (photo by Manghusi Photoshop)

My Ultrasipre Surge Hydration pack, camera, shorts, all soaked in mud!

My previously immaculate white Adidas socks now soaked in dirt and grime. RIP!

Update: Merrell Trail Run 2013 at Camp Sinai, San Mateo, Rizal

Four days to go before we hop and skid, jump and splash along the trails and rivers of Pintong Bukawe in San Mateo! But hey, don’t let the excitement cause you to forget important things to prepare before this race and the organizers have given these reminders for Saturday’s trail run:

If you don’t have these special equipments above, an empty water bottle will do or any container that you can re-fill water into and grip easily with your hands while running.

Please be reminded to come to the race venue on time, late comers will only be allowed to run if they arrive 10 minutes after the gun-start of their respective categories.

Please take note of the gun start time

I’m seeing many inquiries on the Merrell FB page https://www.facebook.com/MerrellPhilippines regarding where the venue is and where they could take a ride going to the site. If you were not able to avail of their special transport services from Trinoma or BGC, Merrell’s FB page have stated that there will be Jeepneys plying the SM-Masinag to Pintong Bukawe route starting at 3:30am early morning of Saturday.

Here is Merrell’s advisory:

For commuters, there will be provision of jeepneys AT SM MASINAG as early as 3:30 am until 4:00 am only. This service will bring you straight to the venue for a fee of Php 50.00, and will be on a first-come, first served basis. We strongly advice you to take this ride since there will be no public vehicles during this time. 

For non-commuters, going to Mt. Sinai will be via Marcos Hi-way, pass Masinag Market Junction to Brgy Cabading. Please take note that there is no passable route (that will reach Pintong Bukawe) from Batasan and San Mateo.

Shuttle Service

So there!

I am posting the map going to the venue itself and i hope others may find this useful.

Wishing everyone good luck and happy trail running!

Camp Sinai, Pintong Bukawe Trails: The Merrell 2013 Trail Route

This may well be one of the most beautiful and varied 21k trail course outside of Tanay and it was good to have run these rarely used trails for the very first time. Camp Sinai in Pintong Bukawe, San Mateo, Rizal was near a former dump site where trash were as high as the mountains surrounding it that made the area a no-no visit or even pass through it.

Things change however, when the land-fill was closed a few years ago and this time, a burgeoning resort-like ambiance grew on its outskirts where outdoor activities have again flourished like mountain biking, trekking and now trail running.

With rolling hills, many technical terrain and about 1,200 ft of elevation gain, it’s not an easy course but the winding switchbacks to and from the river rewards you with stunning views of rural vistas, broad valleys where many sections offers sweeping views of the vast Sierra Madre Mountains.

As with previous Merrell Adventure Trail Race editions, this year’s route was selected by trail race expert and Race Director Thumbie Remigio who has again devised a route to challenge adventure seekers. Me and a group of runners from the Merrell and Saucony groups including some bloggers were given a glimpse of what to expect.

We ran just 11 kms of the 21km route and i was very surprised at the amount of variety, from gnarly rocky paths to broad rough roads and the various river trekking one has to pass with plenty of vegetation on the sides. Warning: the last part of the race will be all uphills and i advice runners who plan to participate in this race to train on hills. Arduous as it is, the organizers will even set up mud pits to give it more a rather dirty look for trail runners!

For those who plan to join the trail run, here are some details to guide you through in registration: http://registration/merrell-adventure-run-2013-at-pintong-bucawe-san-mateo-rizal/

I’m leaving you some pictures for a sneak peek of the Merrell 2013 race route and trails. Enjoy!

The welcome sign, 300 meters upwards

The views atop Camp Sinai where the starting line will be

Cottages at Camp Sinai

Briefing from Race Director Thumbie Remigio

The start of our run

It will be all downhill for the first 3.5 kms.

A small river that will greet runners on the way down. No crossings here

Views on the downhills were excellent

Trails passes at the side for a better view of the mountains

A bump during the downhill portion

All the trails you want

Seldom used trails here

With the group taking a break

There will be a long section of these on the trails

Stopping at a cross-road while Thumbie giving some instructions

At the 3km mark during this point

Single track trails leading to sterling views of the Sierras

Atop a portion of the mountain

This trail leads down to the river

One of the best views of the run!

Picture doesn’t give justice to the feeling while you view this. A wow scenario!

The group waiting at the edge of the river

Root crops at the river’s edge

Trekking towards the river’s edges

Wish we could just lie down and enjoy more of the views

About to cross the river

They didn’t want to get their shoes wet?

In the middle of it all

View from the other side

This will be part of the route

Threading some trails before we cross to the other side

Approaching a fenced property

Only the 21k runners will pass through here

An elevated path

It’s back to the river

Thumbie and Nonoy

Deep portion of the river. The bamboos are so old and brittle that it was crackling while crossing it.

Back to the boondocks

Posing with 2 local farmers and their dog

Up to the green mountains

Jojo Pauly

At the second half of our run

Lots of banana trees here

Rough roads will also be part of the route

This is a very long uphill trek

…with good views while walking the steepest part

Kids running towards us

The view behind us

Exiting the Sitio Watershed P7, Pintong Bokaue

A large boulder at the edge of the trail

A sprint on the downhill part

Going up back to Camp Sinai

The 10k and 5k runners will be scaling up this steep climb to the finish

Me on my way up…

Resting at a side mountain cafe at Camp Sinai

Moses’ tablets (Samsung?) You just don’t know the enormity of this until………….

…you actually come close to it!

150 meters before the run ends. Back to where we started.

Took our lunch here

And despite the 2 hour++ gruelling, uphill, downhill, river trekking run–we find this sign posted at a sanctuary…