The Blue Lagoon (Gasgas River) Trails in Solsona, Ilocos Norte: Part 1

A great joy of trail running is the feeling you get when you venture on some place completely new, a venue you haven’t seen nor experienced before. Many locations for trail running offer unique amenities like waterfalls or mountain ridges but there are only a few locations that offer one full package of a truly amazing experience.

Found one of this wonder of nature when we traveled in the town of Solsona, a 3rd class municipality in the province of Ilocos Norte, when rivers connects to waterfalls or when mountain tops stretch to a vast plateau offering a savanna like no other!

We were guests of Mr. Rene Santillan, Executive Secretary to the Mayor of Solsona, Mr. Jhong De Lara to explore the trails around Solsona and we were amazed at the variety of terrains, rich with undulating mountain climbs and treks atop single track trails over-looking the river. While the Cordillera/Mountain Province region gets all the attention when it comes to trail running, Solsona’s Cordillera mountain part offers the solitude of non-stop trail-blazing with far less people setting foot on these parts.

The mountains and the long river takes precedence here. From our base camp at the Karinking Mountain and River Resort (KMRR), we wandered into a established trail with leads at once into views of a long river below with paths of rocky single track terrain and an assortment of fauna that envelopes the area.

There are numerous epic treks that can be inter-connected to each other but the trail to the GASGAS River or what the locals fondly call the BLUE Lagoon serves an easy 30 minute single run-hike that connects to the DUA Falls and some more trails at the base of the mountains.

My trail running buddy Jun Santiago including another trekking visitor of the place Mario and our guide, Fernan were to trek on this scenic landscape beginning at the KMRR by scaling on ascending and descending boulders that offers lots of challenges. If the trails were to steep or too narrow to pass over, we slid down on ravines that leads to the river banks which were much safer to maneuver instead of risking of falling down from unsure footing. Once we find another opening to scale up, we do so to re-connect with the trails.

And when you conquer this quirk jaunts up those trails and emerge at their famed Blue Lagoon and look at at the vastness of this river, you will feel the true timelessness of this place.

Don’t forget to freshen up while in the river. The water is cold, by the way but it beats the heat that you were subjected to while scaling the trails. Enjoy!

Start of the trail

A detour to avoid the narrow, loose trail above the banks of the river

The rocky trail overlooking the river

Making a stop, enjoying the view

Another boulder atop the edge of the river

A flat portion of the terrain

Getting down from those limestones

Blue Lagoon (Gasgas River) now on view

The fast current makes it so difficult to pass through

Jun and the guide crossing on the shallow part

 

Trying to balance at the slippery rock

Trekking our way further on the eastern side of the river

One of the Dua waterfalls

The Yellow and the Eco Trails of Camp John Hay

There’s no other city on the northern part of Luzon than i am more fond of than the cool, charming summer capital, Baguio City. It’s been countless of times that i’ve been to this summer resort since the 70s but for some odd reasons, have not been able to visit this place for the last 7 years. But last week, when fellow blogger Franc Ramon invited me for a week-end of trail running at Camp John Hay (which is a few minutes from his home in the city) and at the Sta. Fe Trail Run in Ampucao, Benguet, 40 minutes further away, (story here)  i couldn’t resist the invitation.

Tha many times i’ve visited the “City of Pines”, our itinerary would include Camp John Hay (CJH), the former R&R facility of the US Armed Forces, now under ownership of the Philippine government. CJH for me was more of a place to dine, stroll along its manicured gardens, go horseback riding or set up picnic on one of the picnic tables and view the awesome natural surroundings.

However, it was only recently that i learned about the running trails inside the camp, knowing that these were used exclusive for horse-back riding and was the venue for the North Face Trail run series a few years back. So Franc, being very familiar with these trails brought me along for a short run-walk jaunt and being here for the first time was magical!

Start of the Yellow trail

The Yellow and Eco Trails provides an oasis for runners, mountain bikers, and hikers. Good thing that majority of this trail is now off limits to horse-back riding as they have been confined only up to the trail-head.

Franc and I readied our cameras to catch snaps of our run-hike and just put our minds to auto-pilot and let the undulating trails take us through hard-packed single track trails, groves of pine trees, glimpses of mountain tops, grassy fields and ravines and flowering ridges. Despite the sprinkling of mountain bikers and occasional hikers, it was amazing how serene these trails could feel.

Along the trails, we met fellow trail-ultra runner, Epoy Poblete who was also venturing into these trails for the first time.

It’s one of the most beautiful places to run in Baguio City and a great destination for trail runners who would like to explore a short but exhilarating run inside Camp John Hay.

Leaving you with some pictures we took along the route. Happy trail running!

With Franc Ramon

Bumping into Epoy Poblete (middle) who was also venturing out into the Yellow Trail

ECO TRAIL

Pimco’s Last Hurrah: NTDR Leg 3 Trail Run

At the start with Pimco’s Manny Santos, far right

Nice cool breeze, newly discovered trails, beautiful scenery, a gigantic almost 90 degree descent and another chance to discover the vast highlands of the Sierra Madre Mountains! What else could there be?

We were one hour late after the gun start of our 21k run thinking that the race would start at 5:30am (instead of 4:30) so we were caught off guard when the last batch of the 5k runners were just sent off as Jun Santiago, Jackie Gutierrez and myself where still inside Jun’s car trying to find a parking space near the starting line. So we rushed to the registration area and as soon as we got our bibs, we immediately were off, treating this race as an LSD trail run instead of getting a fast time so, no pressure at all.

Pimco Sporting events, the organizers of the Tanay Natures Trail Discovery Run series has provided one of the best trail routes, mostly located in Tanay. However, PIMCO boss Manny Santos is having his last bow as this would be his last managed race under PIMCO and is letting his main race director Alvin Balderama continue with the trail series under new management.

As this was PIMCO’s final leg of its NTDR trail series, Manny wanted it to be his ultimate offering, something that would galvanize Tanay as the mecca of trail running that he so popularized. And he did not disappoint! The route was grandly arduous but there’s no mistaking the rapturous enchantment felt by the trail runners themselves.

It was a trail retrospective covering the small Baranggays of Cuyambay, San Andres, Cayabu, Sto. Nino and other small sitios. It launches through rice fields, dry single track trails to mountain ridges, heavily wooded areas, waterfalls, uphills and a killer downhill where we went sliding with out butts holding on to tall grasses to break the free-fall!

It doesn’t take long to recognize that RD Alvin Balderama has made the route another challenging one and it’s sometimes a hassle treading on a very technical course without the presence of any “safety net”. Alvin is an incredible trail finder who has a knack for discovering new, untapped trail routes. With his energy and enthusiasm, he knows the ins and outs of the trails in Tanay, being a resident there!

The course was clearly marked and there’s no way you can get lost especially with the orange string markers hanging above the trees and volunteers telling you where to go, so there’s little to no confusion on where you’re headed.

Manny describes Tanay as a great trail destination, whether you’re new to trail running or an elite–there’s something for everyone and that’s exactly what it is. He left us some beautiful views of mountains and rivers to discover, some brutal uphills and downhills and a pile of fascinating trails and waterfalls–a trail running mecca, near the heart of Metro Manila.

Thank you Manny for the discovery!

Here are the pics of NTDR’s final offering. Enjoy!

Helping out an injured runner, led by Doc Forrest Arayat

Marie Joyce!

 

Fell twice off the downhills. Moral lesson: Don’t take pictures when threading on a steep downhill!

This was like Shangrila–a place of very green plants and trees!

One of the highlights of the route

Another waterfalls

Part 3: Trail Chronicles Recap: Highlights of 2014 (Last of a Series)

Trail Chronicles #20 : A Dozen River Crossings (August 24, 2014)

Puray and its trails commands the attention of serious trail runners wanting a challenging route and it won’t be complete unless you reach its main attraction, Puray Falls and climbing up further to its crest to see the magnificence of the various lagoons of streaming waters.

This trail route is probably the most river crossings we had, no less than a dozen of them, one of which we had to maneuver right smack in the middle of deep waters, crawling horizontally, clinging to rocks in order to reach the other side. Against strong currents and slippery boulders, our trail running shoes were no match for it.

The trails going to Puray Falls (Rodriguez, Rizal) are mostly technical, many with rocky terrain and to compound things, some of the rocks covered under the rivers are mossy making them quite slippery. Been to this place on previous occasions although temperatures were swelling during this time post the rainy onslaught of the previous days. Jun and i together with old running friends Darryl, Jeyson, Werner and Chips, all established trail/ultra trail runners were on for this adventure!

Trail Chronicles #21: A Sneak Peek of Mt. Talamitam (September 1, 2014)

It didn’t matter that i would be waking up early at 2:00 in the morning, hie off to Makati and meet up with blogger-friends, Franc and Henri at 4 am or that we would be driving to Nasugbu, Batangas and discover Mt. Talamitam. The trail route to Mt. Talamitam did not dissapoint! Gorgeous and scenic views, not to mention the tremendous uphills that were waiting for us along the trails.

Here on this secluded area, far removed from any modern amenities of civilization (except for the locals use of cell phones too), i felt as though i could run forever with different views switching on every few seconds. We took trail routes which were longer, used exclusively by the locals, far different from those that hikers and trekkers regularly use. Our hosts, the Cavite ESE Team, led by JC Igos and his co-Race Directors were gracious enough to bring us up their training grounds!

Trail Chronicles #22: Salomon City Trail Intramuros Run (September 10, 2014)

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!

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!

Trail Chronicles #23: Dalandanan Trails (October 4, 2014)

Many trail runners, specially those with an eye for technical or long, mountainous and river paths often flock to the peaceful hinterlands of San Mateo, Rodriguez and Tanay, all in Rizal province. But the trails and peaks of nearby Bulacan, with Licao-Licao, Mt. Balagbag, Mt. Maranat, to mention a few, which is just an hour away from Metro Manila is just as ideal for adventurers–and a lot less known to runners.

Nearer still is Ciudad Real in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, one of my favorite  venues for unlimited trail running as many trails here remain untouched from runners, just waiting to be discovered.

We returned to Ciudad Real but instead of going through our usual route, we explored trails that we haven’t ran before, discovering in the process raw natural landscape, where water is clean enough to drink, fresh air blowing from atop trees and flower-filled forest with reds beaming on the side of the trails.

Trail Chronicles #24: The Other Side of Timberland (November 23, 2014)

There are still so much to look at here at Timberland and explore. If you look past the former garbage dump when you’re on the trails past Shotgun Road, there’s a nice little chunk of woods at the other side of this dumpster that runners try to avoid because it’s either stinky running near it or they just don’t know how to get there.

There are a few runnable trails that connects the usual trails inside Timberland Heights and past this landfill with several smaller offshoot trails. Jun and i went beyond our comfort zones and explored a few kilometers of random single track paths. You run through both wide open areas and under a lush treeline and can truly get the feeling of floating over a mountain ridge even though you know you’re only a few breaths from a landfill!

Trail Chronicles: Indang, Cavite Trails: Dash For The Elderly 21k Race (August 14, 2014)

The Dash For The Elderly Half-Marathon Trail Run in Indang, Cavite, was another unforgettable adventure with trails almost dry and packed, throwing some of its best routes, scenery, humidity, small town hospitality and fresh air for trail runners! And with only about 150 runners, we had all the trails by ourselves!

The trails were mostly double tracks, an obvious reference to the mountain bikers who frequent these routes. The place is basically an agricultural area where different crops are planted including pineapples and other plant varieties. Some parts of the trails were really grassy and wished that they had trimmed it off a bit to reveal those shallow canals located in between the double tracks. Beautiful place!

Part 2: Trail Chronicles Recap: Highlights of 2014

This is the second part of a 3-part series looking back at some of my best trail runs for 2014. The 3rd and last part will appear after 2 days. Enjoy!

Trail Chronicles #14 : A Glimpse Of The Sto. Nino Trails (May 7, 2014)

The Sto. Nino trails descending to the town of Laiban have been previously used many times during Pimco’s Love A Tree race series and it’s easy to see why this route has been a staple for trail runners, specially those running Pimco’s longer distances from 21k to 50k here in Tanay, Rizal.

Being here with other trail runners in the early morning is forgetting that you’re just an hour away from Manila. The small communities that compasses the area: Baranggays Cuyambay, San Andres, Sto. Nino and Laiban gives you a lot of variety. Here you have wooded areas, single track paths, rough roads, rivers, waterfalls, meadows and wetland areas to keep you interested.

This is one of my favorite routes.  If you like discovering the undiscovered, running along a river and meandering in the heart of Tanay’s rural community, then these trails are made for you.

 

Trail Chronicles #15: The Trails of Silangan To Wawa (May 21, 2014)

This is one of the roughest but most picturesque trail runs that i have ever done! It’s tough not because of the hills that were constant on the trails of Silangan in San Mateo, Rizal but more of the heat which were hovering in the mid 30s. Running in mid-day for about 6 hours certainly does not make it any easier when you’re exposed in open spaces but the overwhelming feeling of satisfaction is well worth it.

This is one of the more popular trail routes many trail running enthusiasts use on their training runs. What makes the run more worthwhile for me is running this route with my teammates (Team 90%) for the first time, given how some of them really don’t like running on trails. So we all met up one Sunday, at 4:00am at Pure Gold Supermarket and after parking our rides, we started our run towards Barangay Silangan, near Timberland Heights.

 

Trail Chronicles #16: New Converts To Trail Running (June 10, 2014)

There must be something magical about running in trails that this couple, Leo and Sylvia are now drawn to it after testing the waters for the first time on the Casile to Wawa trail run previously. This time, Jun and i brought these two budding trail runners to the trails of San Andres, Tanay– parts of which was the route of the recent Pimco NDTR Trail Run.

Leo and Sylvia are no newbies to road running though, both having completed several marathons and an ultra marathon under their sleeves. Leo, at 68 is still running strong, having a best of 4:30 in the San Francisco Marathon last 2012 while Sylvia who is in her early 50’s clocks  a sub-50 min. 10k and was 1st runner-up (female division) of the Tagaytay to Nasugbu (T2N) 50k  in 5:29 also in 2012.

Both seem to enjoy the adventure, escape and the lure of the wilderness and it’s apparent when both recently shopped for trail shoes, pole sticks, dri-fit apparels, hydration back-packs, whistles and even a walkie-talkie that has a speaking range of 28 miles! Speaking of being gung ho!

Trail Chronicles #17: Puray Falls (June 17, 2014)

This is one of the best kept secrets hidden in the hinterlands of Rodriguez (Montalban) and the trails leading to Puray Falls present one of the most scenic views, getting a close up look to nature and of the local people.

Here, we get to explore Puray Falls, with its gentle river below now accessible leading to the falls. On the paths leading to it, i love how the scenery changed constantly. It’s the changing backdrops of the mountains that constantly grabs your attention then you find yourself approaching a river or stream with towns people doing their daily routine along the banks of these rivers.

Running the trails of course, was the best part of the adventure, moderate to technical specially the very narrow ridge approach to the top of the falls itself with one misstep and you fall into a deep ravine. Most of the run is shaded with the rural, forest backdrop of the small town of Puray dominating the scenery. Lots of trees, running streams, and wild life as we had to maneuver over rocks and boulders on the way to the falls.

Trail Chronicles #18 : The Pimco 2X Test Run Trail Route (July 7, 2014)

Returning to this place, i was pretty much awed by the landscape of lush greenery along this route, the effect of rainfalls it had over the past few days after near drought that enveloped this area a few months ago. Tanay’s vast scope of winding forests trails and it’s endless scenery of mountains and rivers can simply overwhelm as its popularity as a trail running destination has soared through the years.

I thought these photos of the trails and its surroundings may illustrate what i mean and give you a good glimpse of the 2X Solo/Buddy trail race that was forthcoming in a few weeks.

Trail Chronicles #19: Mt. Balagbag Trail Run (July 18, 2014)

Baraggay Licao-Licao in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, the gateway to Mt. Balagbag is a mere 25 minute drive from SM Fairview!

Rising above the Sierra Madre mountains, we slowly inched our way up into the hills and i soon realized that this is a trail runner’s paradise! Though we were walking those steep hills, we compensated it by blazing through on the flat and downhill portions which winded through lush greenery, macadam roads, long-winding mountain paths and hosts of wild birds and flowers.

There is a small, scattered community during our climb where people seem to be friendly to us visiting strangers that we had to stop several times and engage them in small banter.

The trails here are classic mountain trails with acres of lush green forest mountains, ridges and several kilometers of random technical trails with small streams trickling on the sides.

There are a few stores located along the route but don’t expect drinks to be ice cold as the place is devoid of any electrical power. Near the top of Mt. Balagbag is a private property where bikers and hikers usually enter to be at the mountain’s highest peak, the so called “Helipad” where you could have a 360 degree view of the mountain area.

 

Trail Chronicles Recap: Highlights of 2014 (Part 1)

I look at this past year 2014 and i can say that it was one of my most active year of running. As 2015 comes in my midst, i am grateful for the opportunity the past year has brought me in terms of health and fitness and being able to gain a lot of friends through our common love of trail running.

I’m still mesmerized at the places that i had been to with fabulous scenery, mountain peaks, gushing rivers, water falls and forest trails that are a staple of most of my trail runs. For 2014, i have done a chronicle of all my trail runs through my “Trail Chronicle” articles which have become one of my blogs’ highlights.

All in all, i have done a total of about 24 trail runs which include races, test runs and training runs with perennial running partner Jun Santiago where we both shared the joy of discovering new trails.

Now, i would like to look back on some of those highlights and share them once again to you. Here is PART 1 of those chronicles:

Trail Chronicles Year Opening: The Lost Gardens of Maysawa (January 24, 2014)

In the mountains of Tanay, one place holds a special allure to those who have ran its trails and crossed its rivers…the rugged scenery of Sitio Maysawa.

The Maysawa trails are beautiful but jagged, rocky on some parts, wooded on the inner portions  following shallow but crystal clear rivers plus a couple of different ridges through the woods. It throws in a couple of relentless uphills and descents. The terrain on the end part, after reaching Brgy Laiban is a mix of woodlands, creeks, open space and the occasional cultivated field.

We managed to run and walk endlessly for about 2 hours and discovered three falls from rushing streams, white rocks and a garden-like deep pond where we had to cling on rocks to get over the other side of the stream.

It was as surreal as it can get, the deep green-colored water was hollow on its surface but you can just see the deepness when you get near its core where the rushing water was like waterfalls pouring into a garden of rocks.

Probably Tanay’s version of the lost Garden of Eden, if ever there was one.

Trail Chronicles #2: Kaybanban Trails (January 31, 2014)

Running buddy Jun Santiago and i have been pinning to discover these inner trails just outside of Tunkung Mangga and it was awesome to discover long, vast, open and wooded trails. And running within its rustic backdrop made me all high, every area has its picturesque settings.

Trail Chronicles #3: A Look At Laiban Trails (February 5, 2014)

Laiban offers amazing views of the Sierra Madre Mountains and its clean, pristine rivers. There are whole branches of trails you can take if you’re feeling adventurous though i suggest to thread on the main trails first if you’re running here for the first time.

Trail Chronicles #4: New Daraitan Route Trail (February 11, 2014)

Jun and i were really excited to try on these new paths going to the Tinipak River and Rocks at Daraitan without going through much of the long rough dirt stretch along Daraitan Road which we did last year. This is a great new running jaunt with lots of magnificent views of the Sierra Madre Mountains.

Trail Chronicles #5: Tinipak River and Rocks (February 16, 2014)

What a find in Tanay’s wilderness! We went back to Tanay for the second consecutive week to complete our unfinished business of test running the whole 32k route of the PIMCO Love A Tree Daraitan Trail Run for next week (February 23). With me this time were veteran ultra runners Tin Ferrera, Chito Carreon, newbie Rhett Del Rosario and our ever sprightly running guide, Emer of Pimco Sports.

Trail Chronicles #6: Paradiso (February 18, 2014)

As we moved eastward from Tungkong Mangga going towards Licao-Licao near Norzagaray, we noticed several trails that were branching out from Baranggay San Roque, San Jose Del Monte (SJDM) in Bulacan. Jun and i weren’t sure about any possible running routes in the area but we were game to discover places.

Apparently you don’t have to wander much around SJDM to discover many trails that can go on for plenty of kilometers on end. So we decided to stray a while and entered a side trail in a small Baranggay called Paradise or Paradiso, as the locals would put it. We started on a trail head just past the Paradise Farms and Community School.

Trail Chronicles #7: The Boondocks of Norzagaray (February 20, 2014)

As with other trails in Bulacan, i don’t see how you’re not going to enjoy this rustic but arresting trail route, loaded with interesting sceneries like wide vegetable plantations, farms and the ever present mountain ranges of the Sierra.

Though the trails are easy to follow during the first few kilometers of the route, it becomes more intricate once you venture inside the wooded areas as there are several smaller trails that branch out. That said, it can be easy to get a bit lost inside these trails.

Trail Chronicles #8: The Trails of Macaira (March 4, 2014)

Tucked in the inner borders of Sampaloc, Tanay lies the little barrio of Macaira, a farmland known as a gateway to the resort town of Daraitan. But more than being a gateway to its more popular cousin, Macaira boasts of breath-taking scenery, a quaint little community, plenty of wonderful running trails and its No. 1 visitor attraction, the Macaira Garden Resort.

Trail Chronicles #9: Pintong Bukawe (March 21, 2014)

We first discovered these wooded trails way back in 2009 when  June Santiago and i 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.

Trail Chronicles #11: Kay Ibon and Duhatan Trails (April 7, 2014)

Just when you thought you’ve covered all trail routes worth running in Tanay, another rave scenery was just waiting for us to discover, tucked in an inconspicuous entrance along Tanay’s main highway.

Alvin of PIMCO was leading all 14 of us trail runners to test run this new route for the 1st Leg of their NTDR Trail Race for May 25 and we were running along the main highway wondering where he would lead us, when we suddenly swerved right into a single track trail and found these sceneries. The views were pretty amazing!

I had ran through great waterfalls, mountain ridges, river trails, shaded single track trails, all in Tanay but this is something else.

I’ll be showing you a few pics of our run which are the Kay Ibon and Duhatan trails.

Trail Chronicles #12: Mt. Batolusong and Maypatag Plateau (April 11, 2014)

Like the Kay Ibon Trails/Falls and the Duhatan Trails , Mt. Batolusong and the Maypatag Plateau are very panoramic.

Its trails, green views, rolling pastures, ridges and deep ravines is a running hot spot, a perfect back drop for pictures, hiking and of course trail running. Mt. Batolusong is one of its attractions – a bit difficult in the beginning (until you reach the Maypatag Plateau), but plenty of places to stop for a breather and to catch a view.

It’s not a tall mountain, but it will definitely give you great views of the nearby Susong Dalaga peaks, Banahaw, Cristobal, Laguna, Rizal and as far as Quezon. It does have a couple of spots where elevation can cause you to huff or puff a bit.

Trail Chronicles #13: The Salomon X-Trail Run (April 16, 2014)

Quite possibly the most technically demanding trail race i have ever joined! The 32k route was relentlessly hilly with the inclines so steep that even the best of the trail runners i know were reduced to staggering zombies, our faces etched like doomsday ahead of Semana Santa!

The last picture you’ll see  is probably what most of us (for that day) felt what “surrender” was, when instead of a pick-up bus transporting those who never made it to the cut-off time, were whisked away in this transport…in style!

Trail Chronicles #23: Dalandanan Trails

Many trail runners, specially those with an eye for technical or long, mountainous and river paths often flock to the peaceful hinterlands of San Mateo, Rodriguez and Tanay, all in Rizal province. But the trails and peaks of nearby Bulacan, with Licao-Licao, Mt. Balagbag, Mt. Maranat, to mention a few, which is just an hour away from Metro Manila is just as ideal for adventurers–and a lot less known to runners.

Nearer still is Ciudad Real in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, one of my favorite  venues for unlimited trail running as many trails here remain untouched from runners, just waiting to be discovered.

Last Friday, trail running buddy Jun and i returned to Ciudad Real but instead of going through our usual route, we explored trails that we haven’t ran before, discovering in the process raw natural landscape, where water is clean enough to drink, fresh air blowing from atop trees and flower-filled forest with reds beaming on the side of the trails.

Jun and i entered a small community known as Sitio Dalandanan, Tungkong Mangga where this citrus fruit abounds during its bearing season. There is enough variety here in terms of hills, flats, as well as scenery (single track trails, streams, waterfalls to prairies with thatched houses) to keep things interesting and challenging at points.

There were parts of the trail that were muddy after the intermittent rains during the past few days but not to soggy to interfere with your stride. Highlight of our run is a stop-over over a rocky stream with small waterfalls that is both mesmerizing and tranquil. Wish we had stayed here a little longer.

Here’s the rest of our run, in pictures:

The entrance to Sitio Dalandanan

Surprising to see pine trees in this area

It’s a trail that we haven’t gone through before so it was interesting what was in store ahead

Going down at the banks of a small river

A little surprise for us here! Water streaming down a rocky plank from a waterfall…

Dalandanan waterfalls

The waterfalls visible above from the trails

Some uphill parts of the Dalandanan trails

This is now Sitio Ricafort

One of the rocky trails

Putting my Salomon X-celerate to the test

Getting tangled on the vines along the Licao-licao trails

Mostly single track trails at Licao2.

Taking a break for a selfie!

Town folks do their laundry in this river

Encountered several beasts of burden along the trails

Finished in 4:52 for the 20 km run

2014 Filinvest Endurance 12 Hour Trail Run/MTB Week-end

If there was a true “City Trail” in urban Metro Manila in the strictest sense of the word, this should be it! The hard-packed, single, double track trails of the “Filinvest City Complex” located in Alabang, Muntinlupa City is a mountain bike haven now used as a regular trail running destination of trail enthusiasts. Filinvest City’s lush greenery and full grown trees provide plenty of shade and scenic views for those using their soft trails, from grass covered surfaces, hills and mud tracks, if wet! (See trail pictures below).

And same with last year, this will be the venue of a 12-hour, 6-hour, 3-hour Endurance Trail Run and a 12-hour and 6-hour Mountain Bike race!

This year’s Filinvest City Endurance Weekend 2014 will be held on November 8 (for the MTB race) and the following day, November 9 for the Trail Run with both races having the regular 12 hour races plus additional categories of a 6-hour and 3-hour trail run and another 6-hour category for the MTB ride.

An endurance trail race for both beginners and veterans alike, this is about completing the whole time allocated whether it be the 12 hours, 6 hours or 3 hours you chose to compete in, rather than any specific distance for both the trail run and the mountain bike competition.

More of the details here:

 

 TRAIL RUN DETAILS (12 Hr/ 6 Hr/ 3 Hr):

 

Race route for both MTB and Trail Run

Here are parts of the race route:

Registration Fees for both MTB and Trail Runs

Registration Centers for both MTB and Trail Runs

Registration Centers for both MTB and Trail Runs

MTB DETAILS:

 

FILINVEST CITY ENDURANCE WEEKEND 2014: A RACE TO REDEFINE LIMITS

When weekend bikers turn into competitive cyclists, and casual joggers evolve into avid runners, they want to keep the momentum alive by constantly going for races that will push them to the next level. Whether elite, intermediate or relative beginner, a new twist or challenge in a race gives additional motivation and excitement for every biker or runner.

This is exactly what Filinvest City offers as it hosts the second Filinvest City Endurance Weekend 2014: Ride, Rock and Run, a race that will test their limits—whether they’re hard-core cyclists and runners, or just racing enthusiasts who want to see how far they can go.

Based on the overwhelming positive response from the first Endurance Weekend held in 2013, Filinvest City has redesigned this year’s event, opening it up to more participants. Aside from the 12-hour races originally offered last year for both mountain bike and trail runs, there will be additional categories for 2014: the 6-hour MTB race on the first day and 6 and 3-hour Trail Runs on the second day, open to both male and female competitors.

The races are set to take place on November 8 and 9, 2014 at the picturesque nature trails within this garden city. Lined with stately palms, shady trees and filled with beautiful landscapes and lush greenery, these popular trails make it that much more enjoyable for competitors to race and attempt to beat their Personal Records.

“While there will be prizes and medals for all the winners in the different categories, “ says Filinvest City Project Head, Don-Don Mari Ubaldo, “for most of the participants, it is reward enough to know that they can take on a race this tough and come out of it a better cyclist or runner”.

Adding to the festive atmosphere of the entire weekend are the rockin’ side activities that will provide entertainment for the spectators and give that much-needed energy boosts for the racers.

“This Endurance Weekend captures the vibrant spirit and the sense of community in Filinvest City,” says Ubaldo. “It opens doors for more people to experience the fun outdoors and the active adventures they could have in a true garden city.” (Press Release)

Pimco 2X Trail Run: A Short Race Recap

“Go fast enough to get there but slow enough to see”.

Borrowing this quote from Ashley’s FB timeline, this may well be the gist of our 24k trail run yesterday in Sampaloc, Tanay where we savored the views along the route but mindful still of finishing fast and strong.

The trails over the 2X Trail run offered a surprising level of challenge, and while there’s nothing too extreme (crossing the rivers went smooth), there’s not too many trail runners who can make it through the whole route without clipping out.  I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath while walking on those steep hills and nearly stumbling a few times while maneuvering around rocks embedded under the river.

The scenery changes every few minutes. Waterfalls, mountain views, rivers, hills galore, beasts of burden, open fields, single track trails, mountain ridges and a thousand different types of tress – this trail route has it all! This is about as good as it gets for trail running and this race in particular where we really had so much fun; challenging course, just enough water to fill-up the gaps in our water bottles, a coconut juice station and amazing views!

Now to the race itself..

The starting line was low-key, no race arch nor big banners, just two twin posts and a white floor marker in between that showed where the start was and it was just at the doorstep of the Sampaloc Inn Hotel, a major sponsor of the run. Some runners said it was warm but i didn’t feel that way at all.

Gun went off at exactly 5:00 am for the mass start of both the 24k and 12k runners which i would estimate to be a hundred people or less. Although it was still dark, we had cool air, overcast skies with very forgiving temperatures pretty much the whole way through and even the sunlight towards late morning was bearable.

I started out slowly with running buddy Jun, Ashley Dimanlig, a strong trail runner, trail habitue James Yap Lim and later, Ricky Francisco. This was the group i would be running with from start to end.

With Ashley and Jun before the start of the race

Ashley ascending at the top of a hill before day break

We started along the right lane of the main highway, turned right into a residential area after about 400 meters then passed through market stalls, another residential street before descending into a wooden bridge on the way to the trails.

After this wooden bridge, it was trails galore

The trails could have been marked a little better. My group over-shot a mark when the leading runners were coming back from a downhill portion, apparently lost too, just 1.5 kms after the start. We back-tracked a bit and found our way back through a poorly marked uphill climb and we were all now following the leading runners. There were a few inclines at the early stages that were a bit more difficult than expected (a precursor of more difficult climbs to come) but it was all worth it!

“Always rely on the markers because the person in front of you may not know where they are going”.

Not when the markers are pointing in the wrong direction!

A funny thing happened when we were about 4kms into the trails.  We reached a “Y” junction that was manned by two young gay marshals, their lips glowing with bright red lipsticks, heavy make-up and all, who were emphatically telling us to turn left, as it was the correct route. It seemed that earlier, they had inadvertently turned the arrow marker (located beside them) to point to the right side road which the leading runners followed as they thought was the right route!

The blunder was only discovered when other marshals, who were stationed a kilometer away after the junction, were worried why no runners had emerged towards them when the first batch should have passed through their station half an hour earlier.  At this point, more than half of the 12 and 24k runners have already entered the wrong way! Imagine our laughter when these two poor kids told us their blooper and the predicament they were in! Hahah…

Since the route is a loop, all the runners who followed the wrong way took it to themselves to continue the run, to run in reverse of the course since they were way too far to turn back (more laughter)!

When we reached the next water station after the junction, our amazement were further heightened when Ricky Francisco, a 12k runner who was ahead of us by a minute was told by people manning the station that we were the first 24k runners who have reached their post! Funny as it seem, with our “run the flats-walk the hills-sprint the downhills” scheme, the five of us were now technically leading the race! LOL!

“On the trails, any which way you go is always the right way”!

Like the rest of the group, i was walking most of the uphills which were more pronounced during the last stages of the run. And there were a few instances that when Ashley stopped in front of me,  my legs stopped moving too for a moment before having to spur myself onwards when she began to start again. Usually, these were on uphills that we were summitting non-stop but we would compensate by attacking all downhills.

Our group finished the race a few minutes of each other with Ashley and myself crossing the finish line together. My thighs were painfully bruised and throbbing from the relentless uphills but still, it was a great trail run and no matter which direction you run, clock-wise or otherwise, it isn’t where you came from, it’s the journey that counts!

Here’s the rest of the story, in pictures..

The group was “hysterical” upon learning that we were the front runners!

With Ashley

The first ones to partake the fresh coconut juice!

Towards the next mountain peak

Ashley and Ricky

Jun crosses the river and going over to the other peak

Despite sore ankles, Ashley seems to attack the hills

This is where we were told to turn-around at the second mountain. Many of the 24k runners failed to reach this place

Runners we met up doing the reverse route. Despite the confusion, they were all smiles and content

This is James Lim crossing one of the many rivers

By far the most difficult river crossing because of its swift current and depth

In front of a rock formation

Walking the uphills

Running the straights. Inside the Macaira trails

Some trails were perpendicular to a river

Nice trails inside Macaira

 

Trail Chronicles #19: Mt. Balagbag Trail Run

“Typhoon Glenda aims for Metro Manila” was the weather forecast early Tuesday morning! And while most classes were already suspended and some private and government offices were set to dismiss their employees to prepare them for the typhoon onslaught, it was ironic to see rays of sunshine over a tinge of clouds hovering above. No rains, no drizzle as yet!

So, what to do? Running buddy Jun and i decided to take our chances, find the nearest trails and before we knew it, we ended up at the foothills of Mt. Balagbag, Baraggay Licao-Licao in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, a mere 25 minute drive from SM Fairview!

Rising above the Sierra Madre mountains, we slowly inched our way up into the hills and i soon realized that this is a trail runner’s paradise! Though we were walking those steep hills, we compensated it by blazing through on the flat and downhill portions which winded through lush greenery, macadam roads, long-winding mountain paths and hosts of wild birds and flowers.

There is a small, scattered community during our climb where people seem to be friendly to us visiting strangers that we had to stop several times and engage them in small banter.

The trails here are classic mountain trails with acres of lush green forest mountains, ridges and several kilometers of random technical trails with small streams trickling on the sides.

There are a few stores located along the route but don’t expect drinks to be ice cold as the place is devoid of any electrical power. Near the top of Mt. Balagbag is a private property where bikers and hikers usually enter to be at the mountain’s highest peak, the so called “Helipad” where you could have a 360 degree view of the mountain area.

Since this is a private property, a caretaker (who is usually in front of the main gate) will ask you to register in a logbook and charge you an entrance fee of P20.00 per head to enter their steel gate and climb the helipad. But if you’re just going to pass through in front of the property without entering the gate, you shouldn’t pay anything even if the caretaker asks you to. It’s his tiny scam version of a “kotong” cop!

I would like to return on this trail very soon, explore further and extend our run to Mt. Maranat which is another 18 kilometers to the north. A side trip we did at an old abandoned dam with nice waterfalls was another highlight of our run. And like the trails itself, i am left with awe and amazement!

I’m leaving you with the rest of the trails. We’ll be back here pretty soon!

Rock formations along the route