Salomon X-Trail Race: A Dead-End At The Halfway Mark

There were many eye-openers, sometimes quite painful lessons to learn from my first Trail race at the Tagaytay Higlands last Saturday during the Salomon 24K Mountain/Trail Run. Each trail run experience is different for anyone, but some harsh realities are applicable to everyone if, for no other reason, a fair share of caution.

The trails and mountains of the Tagaytay Higlands were daunting and arduous. We ran through muds, ran inside forests, up steep hills, we walked along fenced edges of ravines, we descended with the help of a rope down a steep embankment and the most bewildering part for me was we ran past a huge, agitated and rampaging cow which charged us head-on and once we dodged its bulldozing head, it came back at our backs as we scampered anew saving our arses in the process!

I and the other runners could barely walk on the sideways, laughing out loud recalling this very unusual experience!

Unlike other trail races I joined in the past, this course was well-marked with ribbons and banderitas guiding us into those mazes, the race wasn’t the least bit crowded, it had a friendly vibe, marshals were stationed on very unlikely sections of the forest and they had enough sports drinks and water stations to fill up our hydration bottles without having to worry when the next station will be. Indeed, it was a very well-organized race.

The start

Group Pic before the run

Single tracks at the beginning

The first trail section of the run felt really good as i and other runners had already ran this 6.7 km trail section on a test run a few weeks before. I was picking up tempo quite good although my breathing has always been labored which happens always when running uphill trails. Most of it were single track, rocky, steep and quite technical—you really had to watch your step and go easy on those slippery short down hills.

I ditched my regular trail shoe in favor of my Mizuno Prophecy road shoe that had nice clinging outsoles and performed very well during our test run on these same trails. I thought that it would perform just as well during the actual race on both roads and trails and that I could just coast along with it. Boy, was i wrong! I had forgotten that it had rained several days prior to this race that part of the course had become wet and muddy. I had to stop several times to remove the mud off the shoes and if you didn’t, it felt like you were dragging a pair of military boots.

Well placed signs

A view on what lies ahead

At the 10km mark going towards the main asphalted highway, I was still going on nicely until I felt a sharp twitch of pain on my left heel. I scaled back into a run-walk mode. I then stopped into a road side, sat down to remove some pebbles that were inside my right shoe. When I rose-up to start again, that pain was very sharp and lingering this time, not just on the left foot but it was also creeping into my right heel! My old nemesis, plantar fasciitis had returned!

I was in survival mode for the next 2 kms as I could barely move. The pain, especially on my left heel was excruciating every time I make a step. The pain became unbearable that at the last hydration table on the 12th km mark just before climbing the highest peak of the course, I threw in the towel and informed the marshals that I was going to abandon the race. I had fought the thought of quitting a dozen times during those 2 kms before the half-way mark even if it would take me to walk all the way to the finish but the odds seemed not to be in my favor. This was my first DNF.

With my head bowed, I was driven back on a motorcycle of a security escort to the finish line area where an ambulance was already waiting and I was immediately attended to by the medics.

In summary, even though my run didn’t end the way I wanted it to be, I’m glad I ran it, just the same. Just to be able to feel and experience the struggle of running a difficult course even when injured, is rewarding in itself.

The race was a humbling and learning experience. I had trained on hilly terrain for this race so I thought I was ready to face up the challenge. I had 25k LSD runs on my own. I thought I had adequate shoes that would stand the rigors of the terrain. Apparently, not so. The hills and those shoes eventually got to me and what these two didn’t do, my plantar sure did!

I hope to be back soon and looking forward to the next challenge.

Here are some more pictures of the race:

I was tailing this group

All uphills from here

Long winding trails

At about the 4km mark

At the 2nd half of the trails

Val blends well with his surroundings

Nathan Ridge Run: The Uphell And Downhell Of It All!

If you asked me to pick my favorite adventure race of the past 12 months, my brain would probably short circuit. The Corregidor International Half-Marathon (CIHM) is like running in an outdoor museum, the Merrel Trail Run in Timberland Heights is fun and challenging. But yesterday’s Nathan Ridge 21k Run in Tagaytay Highlands must have been the most grueling mountain run i have ever encountered.

And if you have to ask again which race has the most torturous hills on its course, that distinction should go to last Sunday’s Nathan Run, hands down! Whoever invented the terms “downhell” and “uphell” was right on the mark!

Tagaytay Highlands is an exclusive enclave of prime residential housing located within the Tagaytay mountain ranges. Some of the scenes, like the panoramic views of Taal Lake and its famous volcanoe and Mt. Makiling tell a story. You’ll see an incredible range of landscape and the setting, where you’ll feel like you’re surrounded by a ring of mountains and enveloped by the cool Baguio-like breeze is just gorgeous.

But don’t be fooled by the pristine surroundings, the breath-taking views and its runner-friendly roads. This place was an undiscovered gem for me until about a month ago when i had the chance, together with other bloggers to participate in a familiarization run sponsored by Nathan Sports. My stories (here, part-1/  ) and (here, part-2/ ). We were only able to run the first 3 kilometers and were greeted by some of the most relentless hills until we reached “The Peak”. But there was going to be more of those come race day.

At the start. 21k race started promptly at exactly 5:30am

Come race day morning, i arrived at ROX at the BHS at about 2:00am and saw Rod, who already was seated on a bench. Amanda, another blogger came later. We rode on a bus exclusively for the media and bloggers and since there were only a few of us inside the bus, other runners were allowed to ride with us. We arrived at Tagaytay Highlands at around 4:30am and since it was still early for our 5:30am start, we were allowed to rest at the sprawling Sports Center deck area. We had cool weather but no surprise here since temperature has been constantly in the high 60s around this area.

The 21k race started promptly at 5:30am and we were off. Despite the cool temperature, it warmed up real fast as the course went uphill immediately. I took off like a caged bird but as fast as we went, we were stifled by the steep and long hill upgrade so most of us went on “walk” mode. This continued until we reached “The Peak” for our first turn-around. Up there, a lady was gracious enough to rub some Bodivance oil to my calves which were prone to cramps in hilly terrains like this one.

Check out the Sponge Bob runner!

All smiles while running. They were the noisiest group i've ever encountered!:-)

From reading the elevation profile and course description of Nathan’s FB page, i thought the uphills would just be in the early part of the course and then back down in about the same way. Sheesh, i was wrong! I thought i could just run-walk the uphills and then hit my strides on the level parts and just let my legs take over the downhill part of the second half. But there was a lot more uphills on the second half than i thought!

For most of the race, i strike-up a conversation with Blas (The Titanium Runner) who i was with during the familiarization run. We immediately noticed the elevation drop from kilometers 6 to 8 which really had a tremendous downhill slope that we decided to walk rather than let gravity pull us down or face the risk of falling flat on our faces. We rued the fact that we would climb this up on our way back! Oh man! At least we would be treated to some great views of Mt. Makiling!

The 5k and 10k runners during our way down to the Midlands

Catching one's breath was the norm of this race

Another uphill at Midlands

The water aid stations were really plentiful. Speaking of the aid stations. There was no plastic cups provided. The race required runners to use their Nathan Hand-held bottles that came in free with the race kits. I didn’t use my hand-held bottle but instead used my Nathan Speed 2 Hydration belt. The stations were well stocked with cold water and limitless Gatorade and runners had to simply refill their water bottles and off they went. Surprising that there was no over-crowding at these water stations and it was nice to see that there were no litters and trash of plastic cups that we usually experience in other races. A great innovation!

I was in survival mode at the start of the inclines from Km 16 to 18. Blas had gone ahead in his patented power-walk up those mountains and i was worried that my thighs and calves won’t last the entire race. Just putting one leg in front of the other was already a struggle. Runners were passing me but i didn’t mind.

I finally reached the main road which was all downhill to the finish, or so i thought. I saw the Sports Center building which was where the finish line was but the course went away from it then looped back! Ugh! Again, even at the very end, the road went up to some steep incline and wow, that was mean! Then it gently descended to the finish line. Praise the Lord!

My time was 3:05 which is the slowest 21k time i ever had. But i’m reasonably happy with my time considering the elevation and the time spent walking. You should have seen the face of Neville Manaois, the Race Director who was wearing this wide devilish grin when i was lamenting to him those killer hills. He seemed to relish the hardship and struggle we runners had to endure to finish the race! Grrrrrr…:-)

Over-all, this was one great run, a great running experience for the runners, excellently organized and the volunteers were awesome! Kudos also goes to Ms. Mariel Flores, Nathan Performance Brand Associate, Ms. Laira Legazpi and Ian Belleza of Primer Group and Ian Lumibao of M2M Communications and their respective teams for a job well done! You guys rocked!

(Thanks to Greentenial and ARC for some of the pictures i used.)

Green views during the course of the run

That's Blas (Titanium Runner) who i was pacing with during the second half of the race

Running couple friends whom i bump into several times during the run

Taking a breather at the 14th km mark

One of the long stretches just before the killer hills

The view in front at the 17th km mark

View at the 18th km mark

Rush to the finish

A well-deserved breakfast!

A Look At XTERRA’s “Pang Rave Run” Trail


Last Sunday, we were invited by the organizers of XTERRA’s “Pang Rave Run”, Alaska Milk Corporation’s Jocel de Guzman and Event King’s Princess Galura for a familiarization tour of Tagaytay Highlands and Midlands Resort, venue for the trail race this coming January 30, 2011.

We did not get to see the trails itself as Neville Manaois and his team were still mapping out the course although the 10k and 21k courses have already been pinpointed, beneath the vast, cold and lush surroundings of the Tagaytay ridges and mountains.

When we arrived at the Tagaytay Midlands, the first thing we noticed was the fog and mist that engulfed the whole area with the cold temperature (mid to high 60s) tingling down our spines. We were told by the staff of the resort that the weather would stay constant up to the month of February so no less than an ideal weather would be expected come race day.

The scenes from the trails would be over-looking Taal Volcano for sure but its selling point would be the trails themselves which were never used or ran in any race before. Be forewarned though that the start of the race course would be an uphill struggle from 500 meters up to a kilometer so it would be wise training for some hills already.

The pictures shown below are some of the resorts’ facilities that runners might want to check out before or after the run. They have small, cozy hotels, inns and cottages should runners decide to stay over night at the place. Because of the limited time that we were given, we were not able to run around the area but were given a walking tour instead and found the resort an idyllic place to stay.

Neville promised to send me pictures of the proposed trails so once they are available, i’ll immediately post it here.

Many thanks to Vima Mendoza kulitrunner  for making this trip a very enjoyable one.

The trails are on top of those mountain ranges

The group checking out the area

With EventKing Head, Princess Galura

Breakfast with race organizers and bloggers

Over-looking Taal lake

With "Journeying" James

Tagaytay Midlands Golf Club house

The trails are somewhere this foliage

Pics with some of the Alaska execs, the race' main sponsors

A trail to the cowboy cottages

With Race Director Neville Manaois, James and Vima (Kulitrunner)

With Vima, showing off her...

The pool within the lush settings

No swimming, water was too cold!

Princess, trying to get her message through!

Uncaged Parrot at their mini zoo

Group pic before leaving Tagaytay Midlands

Lunch here at Bag of Beans in Tagaytay city proper

Inside Bag of Beans Coffee shop