I was never a fan of trail runs. My past experience with trails always brought about a feeling of frustration and almost quitting and there were only two of them. My first trail run was the Salomon 12k in 2010. At some point along the route, I just felt like sitting down on the dried grass and crying. Anyway, I finished it in 2 hours after walking half of it with fellow runners. The second run was the 5k Brave Mudders Run in 2012. Yes, 5K! I was thrilled about the obstacles but I wasn’t thrilled about walking on trail and mud. We got to the event early so I did a 12k easy run with my sister prior to the race. Wrong move! My muscles tightened before starting the 5k plus the weather was pretty chilly. Halfway through the race, I wanted to DNF. I couldn’t run anymore so I just walked but walking seemed to take forever. It was the longest 5k of my life. I finished it in 1hr 30mins.
Because of my traumatic trail experience, I didn’t join my sister Dianne and her husband last year when they registered for the 11k TNF. They finished it happy and satisfied so I thought about giving trail a chance. Kuya Ryan wanted to do the 22k last year but unfortunately he didn’t make it to the registration so we agreed to do it this year.
I wasn’t logging enough mileage since my last 21k in November and then the holidays rolled by, my training partner got lazy so my runs became a once to twice a week routine. I only started to increase mileage after Tine and I decided to run a 10k in the Philhealth run in Baguio. Come February, I asked my friend Nick to help me out with a viable training program for the TNF 22k trail run. He asked me whether I wanted to race or just survive. I wasn’t in the race mood so I opted for the latter. He gave me an 11 week program that started on the first week of February. I registered in Baguio mid-Feb and also urged Kuya Ryan to register. He said he lacked training since he wasn’t logging any mileage since after his marathon but nevertheless, he registered online.
I was able to follow religiously the first two weeks of the program and then summer came around. Lakwatsa dito, lakwatsa doon. I was skipping some workouts and even long runs. I still tried to run 4x a week and did squats and push ups every after run. I knew I wasn’t logging enough mileage and I wasn’t following the fartleks, hills and trails as per program. Short trail runs were part of the program so I gladly joined Mich and Jess when they invited me to run with them at the La Mesa Nature Reserve mid March. However, due to time constraints I only completed a 10k and headed back home. The course was relatively flat so it was quite easy except for the mud that kept building up on the shoe.
Sir Knell, a fellow registered 22k runner, invited me and my sister for a pre-TNF trail run at Mt. Makiling early April. It was chance to practice walking on trail since I knew that it was my weakness. I did not expect the steep ascends and the rocky path but the power walks and the climb gave me the mental preparation that I needed. I wasn’t worried about the 22k anymore. However, my NB minimus proved to be slippery so I decided to wear my old NB trail shoes for the race. The last few weeks of training was a mental game. My 45 min easy runs on weekdays became 30mins. I got lazy. On the last week before the race, I ran with my sister from BHS to Mckinley and back. I was surprised to find the uphills easy despite my lack of hill training. I was feeling ready.
Finally, the race weekend arrived. My sister and I arrived in Baguio at 3am on Saturday. It was still way cooler than Manila despite the summer season.
Carboloading time. Tine, Irhys had our late lunch at Half Moon and headed to ROX to claim our race kits. Kuya Ryan texted that he wasn’t pushing through with the race due to work schedules. That got me worried. I felt like I was the weakest among the four of us and I was hoping that I could run together with Kuya Ryan since I knew Tine and Sir Knell will probably be more competitive. I wasn’t ready to run the route alone. With just 3 hours of digestion we headed to Oh My Gulay for our carboloading dinner with Sir Knell.
I woke up on Sunday feeling so so. I put on my tights and shirt, pinned my bib, filled my water bottles with water and gatorade, stuck a bar of snickers and a pack of Orange chews on my hydration belt, put on my old NB trail shoes that still brakes bad-ass.
We arrived at the race area in Camp John Hay at 5am. A few 100k finishers were crossing the finish line. They were really inspiring. Sir Knell was no where in sight. At 5:10am, Tine and I checked in our bibs and positioned ourselves near the front of the pack. I could sense Tine was in a competitive mode so I scanned the crowd for Sir Knell but he was still nowhere in sight. I stood there feeling relaxed with a goal to finish and enjoy. No pressure.
Countdown to gunstart. 18.104.22.168.1.. off we go. I fumbled to reset my watch to 00 and by the time I looked up, Tine was already ahead by a few meters. I tried to catch up with her but it was futile with the thick crowd scrambling to get ahead. I jogged at my own pace not wanting to get burned out early on. At one kilometer, my right leg was starting to feel uncomfortable. I stopped to retie my shoelaces hoping Sir Knell would soon catch up with me but I still couldn’t spot him among the crowd of runners.
Runners started to walk at the Paterno hill. I had a bad experience with walking uphills at the Sto Tomas Run. I knew that walking could lead to hamstrings tightening so as much as I wanted to walk, I tried to jog the hills. Emerging at the Panagbenga park we made a turn into the trail part of Camp John Hay. I tried to study the map but it was just too confusing so I just followed the pack. I was feeling really strong at this point and tried to overtake as many runners as I could before we got to the single lane part. At some point, I had no choice but to trail behind a long line of male runners. We were running at a steady pace for a good part of the trail and it gave me the chance to steady my heartbeat. I took my first Orange chews at 45mins mark. We got to a part where the view was really beautiful but I had to watch my footing carefully since the path was becoming narrow with the ravine just a few inches to our right. I paused for a few seconds to enjoy the view and resumed.
I knew that Happy Hallow was part of the route but I didn’t know exactly where and which part. I just knew from Baguio 21k run that it was a notoriously steep winding road so when we emerged at the road of Happy Hallow I braced myself. Thankfully, it was only a short one. I could see runners walking the hilly part but I tried to jog part of it and power walked half of it. We turned right into the trail again after the water station which was the halfway point. A few meters into the route, I saw the familiar figure of my sister. I shouted her name and tried to catch up with her. “You’re fast!”, she said, surprised to see me. “Mabilis ka ba or mabagal ako?”, she asked. “Bumagal ka”, I told her because I was not expecting to catch up with her. At this point, fatigue was settling in and I was fighting a mental battle. I wanted to walk the rest of it but my sister kept running so I just followed suit and told myself I was stronger than that. We reached another water station and refilled our water bottles. My bladder was ready to pop. We resumed down the cemented road but I really had to pee. Tine suggested I pee at the bushes while she looked out for me. I was hesitant at first but she said it’s ok, runners would understand. So, amongst the cobwebs, leaves, grasses and bushes, I peed. What a relief! I rejoined my sister at the road and we continued into the trail and out to a residential part of Scout Barrio. Tine was lingering behind me at this point. She was walking more frequently.
(…so I had to park writing this for more than a week.. what an injustice…. moving along..)
I could sense Tine was getting discouraged. At the steepest part of the route, I still tried to use the momentum to jump, climb, walk, run the hills but Tine was trailing behind in her tired demeanor. I would rest and wait for her to catch up. After what felt like forever, we emerged at a road. I was feeling energized thinking it was South Drive with only 2km away from the gate but I was wrong. Tine said we were in Scout Barrio… oops! We still had a long way to go. Tine spotted a 100k finisher at the waiting shed accross the street and asked for a water refill. The guy cheered on us and gladly offered the remaining water in his jug. We passed by a residential area that headed to the foot of another hill inside Camp John Hay. This has got to be the last hill, I thought with relief.
It was the last stretch and when Tine rejoined me, she said she was already tired. She was too quiet. I paced with her and I kept telling her we were already close. I could already hear the emcee so we must be pretty close. A few ladies were already overtaking us and I pushed Tine to walk faster. It was 5 mins before 3hours. I told her we can still make it plus sayang ang place if we let the other ladies overtake us. However, she was really feeling discouraged at that point and told me to go ahead. I told her no and continued to push her repeating “konti nalang” over and over. She knew I wasn’t going to leave her so she obliged and hastened her pace. We were almost out on the road leading to the finish line. The guy infront of us was walking and he was startled when Tine and I shouted for him to run. “Takbo, Kuya. Konti nalang!” He looked at us, smiled and started to run, us following behind him. Ate Rose, Tine’s friend, was waiting for us when we emerged at the road. She hugged Tine and cheered for us as we ran to the finish line. We were supposed to hold each other’s hand as we cross but we forgot. Irhys was waiting for us at the finish line, pointing her camera at our faces. Whooo! We clocked in at 3:04 hours. I hugged Tine and she thanked me for not leaving her.
Sir Knell finished 5 mins after us. He was pacing another runner and felt hesitant about leaving the guy behind.
Special Thanks to Miss Rina for treating us to a buffet breakfast at the Baguio Country Club after the run. Thanks to Ate Rose and Ate Racquel for the cheers and support.
That was an amazing experience, far from my previous frustrating trail experience. I just might do the 50km next year.