Being a part of the Frontrunner family, Valley Trail Run has held a special place in my running history for it was one of my first experiences on the trail. Suffice to say, I bonked big time in 2011 (57 kms at 8:45) but I kept coming back in 2012 (28 + 7 kms at 4:01) and 2014 (50 kms at 6:57).
This year, perhaps to keep the tradition burning and to burn some mean mileage a month before the Milo Marathon, we signed up again. We entered the Nuvali compound by 12 midnight along with fellow ultrarunners Alfred & Lou delos Reyes. For the first time, this race was starting really early requiring us to don headlamps (previous editions commenced at 5 am). About 150 runners burst out of the starting line at 2 am.
T’was a swift start for me and Van as we joined the midpackers on a rolling romp through the dark narrow corridors of trees and grasses. We latched on one strong trail runner and it was one countinuous pounding cycle after another with the cool breeze and the dark (when nothing feels far and endless) to push us on. 6 kilometers into the race, Van was already struggling so I kept pulling him along. Soon enough, we knew we had to part ways as I kept on with my neck-breaking pace on trails, roads and loose soil. I’ve experienced Nuvali with the sun in its scorching glory so I’d want to reduce the amount of that experience for this edition. And so I kept pushing myself with my trusty mini-Ipod.
Over 3 hours later, I reached the midpoint and learned I was in the Top 10. So I kept moving even if fatigue had started setting in. Once the sun had fully risen, it was a struggle to keep moving across the expansive cogon fields but I managed. Each of the designated station was a cornucopia of food, energy gel and all sorts of liquid refills. And the ice supply was aplenty – a real treat for my hydration pack every time.
Nearing the final 14 kms., our small platoon of 8 runners were bunched together and bursting with renewed shared energy, bonding and sharing trail stories. Soon, we found ourselves searching for ribbons, trying alternative routes before finally tracing back to our trail lead. We had lost a good 30 minutes (around 2 kilometers). But once back on the route, I just kept jogging with intermittent walking along the rolling terrain plus some nice shaded areas to boot. 7 hours and 40 minutes later, I was crossing the finish line, a bit thrashed but in high spirits. Oh and a #15 place ain’t bad after making tuhog-tuhog (overtaking) some runners in front of me.
Thanks to FRONTrunner for one satisfying but really testy route, especially the construction areas and that agaw buhay (life threatening) dike where one misstep can send you tumbling down deep concrete creek. It was great to see the trail running community come in full force either as race marshalls, sponsors or runners. Valley Trail challenge will always be an annual pilgrimage for me and the years to come. Cheers to all who made an effort to help us – the famished and tired runners along the great trails of Nuvali and pushed us to the finish!
Thanks to Glairold Racella, Joma Sison & Alex Jones for capturing my Nuvali trail race moments! Cheers!