I run…therefore I am

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50 Peaks of Love

Constant running partners in an ultra trail race are hard to come by, considering the trickling number of runners, the total distance and the varying paces of the participants. The longest time two runners would stay together would be just a few hours or a number of legs of the race, especially at night when things become unpredictable and creepy. One eventually breaks down, gives in, and reluctantly lets faster partner go.
So, what if two runners committed themselves to stay together during the whole duration of the race? Well, it’s gonna be a story of forever or they’ll go down in flames. Another bromance story in the brew? Not in a thousand kilometers. I’m talking about romance on the ridge, love on the rocks, pecking on the peak, titillating tales on the trail – a true vow between 2 people in the mountains and in life.endlessly_by_devoshun
I mean, how many times have we compared running to our journey through life? A runner goes through a gamut of emotions and states during a race that soon enough, all the façade and masks come melting away and the real person emerges beyond the sunscreen, mud splatter and sweat. It’s almost comparable to life itself that if 2 people can survive 30 hours of being together through all the good, the bad and the ugly – it’s safe to say they can go through life’s roughest and most testy phases together. And emerge as winners.
Most of these relationships actually emerged and were nurtured on the trails.

Imagine being a lone female runner struggling through killer up hills and eventually getting thrashed come night time when the atmosphere becomes altogether different. Suddenly Alpha male runner comes swooping in. Sweating gorgeously, he strikes a cute conversation on his death defying experiences and how he lost so much blood after being sucked dry by a diabolical limatik. Girl rolls her eyes at boy’s absurd tales but finds comfort and security in his unwavering determination to stay and protect his new found partner who seems to be floundering every now and then. Soon night cloaks the mountains into total blackness with only 2 bobbing headlights on the seeming horizon.

During the night’s journey, girl would falter, move on, slow down and almost DNF but suave partner would be by her side every step of the way, offering sustenance, corny anecdotes and solace whenever the cut-off time seemed out of reach. It was a golden moment for boy to strut his trail skills on the mountains and into her heart. He would coax, joke, push, flirt and egg on girl to keep moving in the light of fatigue, boredom, hypothermia (“body heat will get us through this one, sugababe”), negativity and just plain longing for the softness and familiarity of one’s bedroom.
In the seeming mix of extreme emotion, mental and physical battery, girl finally relents and in their lowest point of the race when they were about to throw the towel and just sleep it out at KM50 station, love triumphs over all absurdities and craziness. Now committed to each other, girl & boy take on the last few legs of their first official ultra race as a couple with new found vigor after being “struck to the bone in the moment of breathless delight”. They almost fail to make the cut-off time but since I love a little suspense and happy endings, they finally reach the finish line seconds before the cut-off and the waiting crowd roars in approval and delight. Girl lands on boy’s waiting arms, two lips connect and they exchange body fluids, tinged with mud, sweat and detached limatik fangs. Ewww.lovers_in_the_sunset_by_sageata-d2pebkf
In the subsequent races, they run as team Red donning their matchy-matchy scarlet uniforms and always sealing their finishes with an extended lip lock which later on had become vomit-inducing and slashed the number of trail participants by 50%. But the pair kept conquering more adventures and ultraraces and was inseparable at every kilometer. Through all the kilometers together, they’ve seen and experienced each other’s best (“pumpkin, your sexy booty is setting my soul on fire”), worst (“munchkin, I think I just plunged on quicksand and I’m sinkin…”) and in between (“honey, my soul is taking flight and it’s going to land into your heart”). But as in life, they’ve chosen to stick together in all its facets, spectrums and nuances. And their exploits just kept piling up, up to this time.
So this trail story is a mishmash of various stories I’ve compiled through the years but in the spirit of inclusion and tolerance (courtesy of Pope Francis), it’s not only between boy & girl. It may well be boy & boy, girl & girl or boy & dog etc., as well. Belated Happy Valentines everyone! Or as friend would put it – happy V.D., just don’t get V.D. (which in the 1990s has become S.T.D.)

Images obtained from Deviant Art.


Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2015

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The Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2015: Meandering & Struggling in the Fields of the Gods

It was a year in the making.  It was last year when a fellow Team Kulit Jen Aggangan opened up the possibility to the whole team of joining the Vietnam Mountain Marathon.  Many were interested, of course.  But in the end, it was me, Van and Jen who went through with the circuitous online process of registering for the race, searching for the most sensible and viable flights and accommodations, plying and preparing for the trails, finalizing on equipments, gears, nutritional requirements – the works.



Van & Jen in the middle of the town square.


Falling for Sapa.


Last minute mileage:  Going around the indigenous communities around Sapa the day before the race.

We landed in Hanoi, woozy from a red eye trip and promptly explored the bustling city into wherever our weary legs might take us.  The next day, we were off into the northern town Sa Pa, the venue of the VMM 2015.  After 6 hours in a sleeper bus, we found ourselves wandering around the mountain village which used to be one of the hill stations the French had set up during their Indochinese occupation.  And their influences persist to this day – from the neo-classical architecture to the everyday baguette bread.  To say that Sa Pa exudes a more European feel would be an understatement – we felt suddenly transported to some Swiss principality tucked on the hills of Indochina.  Or something like Baguio city in the ’70s.


Let’s do this!

Race kit claiming took place the next day and on our third day, Van & I were at the starting line for the 42K participants.  Gun start was at 7:30 am with the rains welcoming us and persisting throughout the morning.  After a kilometer of rolling terrain, the runners disappeared down a muddy trail where the consistency of the earth got mushier and more slippery as the elevation dipped.  The 70K group (released at 4:30 am) and the 42K lead packers had successfully molested and cumulatively produced a descending treacherous path, more fit to slide on than run in.  And so it was a slow train of runners, groping for whatever stable structure is available but eventually sliding, slipping and goofing around.  Many a time, we just slid the path and let gravity take its course.  Fortunately, my Salomon SLAB was more stable than Van’s ratty Columbias which was threatening to separate from its sole.  So even with the trekking pole, Van required my aid to survive the mudfest.Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2015

Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2015

A few decent descents later, the assaults began but the stunning sceneries more than made up for the struggles – what with endless green valleys of terraced rice fields, towering blue mountains and rambling rivers at every turn.  We just kept moving while the sun hasn’t completely come out and the rain was ever present to keep us cool and calculated.  The countryside feels familiar and tropical except that they have the four seasons up here (I was in search for oak trees donning their red and orange foliage but all I saw were swaths of giant bamboos).  China, by the way, is just a little over them mountains, just to remind us that we’re already in the temperate zone.


If only to emphasize that we were still in ASEAN territory, we were led through the rice fields and were made to walk through its irregular, unstable and narrow dikes (pilapil).  If one is a bit wary, he can always wade through the watery paddies and many did as we passed through brooks and small waterways.  It was a brief chance to cool down and wash off the mud that had accumulated from hours of rain.  The valley of rice fields gave one a glimpse of how far one is to venture by looking at the runners miles in front and struggling through the next race path.

Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2015

The trails soon gave way to roads as we passed through living communities with people doing their daily business.  No drunkards drowning on gin along the streets nor fish wives brandishing those poker cards.  What we saw instead were the Hmong ethnic minority, mostly in their native fineries minding the fields while the children helped or frolicked.  They were shy, curious and innocent of the world outside.  Even in the presence of a mechanical rice grinder, the place still feels unspoilt and isolated and we were light years away from modernity.


Around noon, a heavy fog had shrouded the surrounding areas but we kept trudging and enjoying the cool ideal weather.  Last year they say was damn hot and so we thanked the heavens for a perfect trail weather, even with diminished visibility.  After an hour, the fog finally cleared up to reveal stunning vistas of thickly forested mountains where our guide the day before told us of roaming sun bears, jungle cats and boars.  Fortunately, the path stayed within the valley area across more terraced rice fields (they seem to have perfected this art form from our northern ancestors).Frontpage-Curve11054440_359402114258582_6717057081370314136_n

Soon, the ground started to rise and never let up.  The final climb was steepest and a bit technical so we mined and fed on our recent trail experiences.  We recalled those endless ascents to reach Dayap elementary school, the final assault after Miyamit Falls and many of our more challenging local trails.  And we were off and running.  From the fourth major peak, it was almost like a free fall as we put our quadriceps into beast mode.  Dusk was starting to set in so we kept going, hoping to see a glimpse of that thatched colony of the Sapa Eco lodge but to no avail.  As soon as we saw the hill from afar, we started flying like bats from hell (and overtaking a few runners).  We already have our own Philippine flag securely perched on our trekking pole but the final path leading to the finish hoisted all the national flags of the participants.  I spotted ours and promptly retrieved it.  The flag was huge but to wave it proudly while crossing the finish line of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon was pure heaven.  Some of the Filipino 21K participants and supporters saw it and joined us for one glorious moment in the Filipino running community.

Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2015

P.S.  The next day before the awarding ceremonies, it was the 10K runners turn to go around the rolling roads and trails of Sa Pa town and Jen was the lone Philippine representative.

Photography courtesy of the Vietnam Mountain Marathon and David W. Lloyd photography.


Jenny, our proud 10K representative.

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The need for speed


Ever since I can remember, I always get antsy when a work takes a lot of detours to get it done. I can’t seem to take people who move like there’s zero gravity. I get impatient when vehicles in front of me start halting to a crawl. Or when a phalanx of runners start blocking the road and take groupies like they’re in a street dance number. In my mind, I was moving like Mercury and cutting through people, streets and buildings and reaching my destination in a flash. In the real world, it would take me eons to accomplish what I had set out for. Even if I’d like to finish ahead of time, a lot of other factors beyond my control would weigh and eventually slow me down.


That’s what I love about running. You feel like everything rests on your shoulders (and two legs and the other major muscle groups aiding them). If you fail to make the cut and miss being qualified, you have no one to blame but yourself – for being unable to train properly and consistently, for letting the rain and the wind dampen your spirit or for letting all those negative emotions flood your being, sucking out everything with it.


But it took me years to harness and unleash my speed demons into my runs and races.  I never learned how to push myself and overtake the runners in front of me.  I felt that finishing my races within cut-off time was more than enough, considering many were quitting or going beyond the cut-off time.  Not that I wasn’t competitive.  But I was content being the middle-aged runner among the midpackers.  I thought that being able to run, almost injury free and finishing it was more than I’ve envisioned and yearned for.


Speed time with Fatima, Rob, Bon & Dennis at the Marist oval.  2014

But I knew something was trying to break free as I neared my mid-century life.  Perhaps, it started when I chanced upon the book Advanced Marathoning.  In it, I learned about VO2max, lactate threshold and running economy in a more structured and comprehensive narrative.  So I learned a great deal on the physiology and science of running, now how was I to apply them on the track and the road?


I tried to follow the training log for the slowest group and still modified (read:  cheated) its grueling and demanding training schedule.  The most lung busting of the routine is the speed run which has greatly improved my breathing where I usually struggled.  There were also workouts to increase the lactate threshold and VO2 max, which I still haven’t optimized as I’m still prone to cramping.  But overall, I’ve put on some speed and was less to walk or slow down.


I still have to do a podium finish or qualify for the Milo finals but the strides I’ve made this year have made my finish times more predictable and controlled even in the absence of a pace watch (I just need to finish 160 strides in a minute to know I’m within acceptable pacing).  Who would have thought, I’d still be breaking PRS at age 50?  So I perhaps, there could be something exciting that still awaits me.  No matter, I’m just here for the ride of my life.

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To be foolish & young or to be wary & old

Note:  This is my 8th article for Frontrunner magazine and it came out on December 2014, a month after Purgatory 30KM, our preparation race for CM60 a few weeks later.


So here I am trying to descend the final 10 kilometers of my first mountain/trail run since my knee surgery at the Purgatory 30km.  The views are sweeping and commanding, the mossy forests exude a certain virginal character I’ve never set foot on before in my life and the trails are strips of soil covered in dry pine needles that one misstep can send one plunging into the valley below.  And I did slip a few times, only saved by my trusty trekking pole for the nth time.

I remember the times (was that just over a year ago?) when I could glide down these endless down hills that I felt tough and invincible.  Descents are usually the secret weapon of average trail runners like me who can hardly hike up the hills without pausing and catching our breath.  So after that difficult and almost eternal climb, it’s a respite to just fly off and take on the finish.  Later in my brief trail running history, I learned that I’m one of those ‘gifted’ ones who could embrace those tricky and complicated down hills and just plunge down like there’s no tomorrow.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration actually but I know of runners who really take more time going down than up.

That’s not me.

Even if I’m a bit thrashed already, I can easily convince my legs to start moving and let gravity take control until the terrain flattens finally.  Eons ago, I had no qualms of soaring down along dark paths where the other side is a deep ravine lit only by my headlamp while chasing the impending cut-off time.  That was just like two years ago when I felt more confident and firm on my steps, which is not to say I didn’t slip, slide or fall.  I did actually and a lot of times but I easily picked myself up and just kept going.  The fear of falling off a mountain track into a 100-foot valley hardly entered my system.  Maybe I was foolish or clueless or too brave for my own good but with every triumphant finish, I was more challenged and just kept stacking up the ultra distances.P1130133

Just how time flies.

Over a year since I had my knee surgery (which my Orthopedic surgeon blamed from too much descents) and my uneventful recovery, I had become more concerned of my mortality and physical limitations.  When before I was light footed and flitting, I had become more careful in my foot falls, making me a tad slower in my moves.  It has to do I guess with age (though, I was already 47 when I was doing my daring ‘moves’) or perhaps I’m still in my adaptation stage since I’ve concentrated of late on the road and less on the trail.


Jumping for joy on my first Ultrarace after a bout with dengue at the halfway point of I Shall Return 50K at the Leyte-Samar bridge. 2011

No matter, I’m thinking this would be a slow brew before strength and skill would finally kick in.  But once I get my groove back, it’s not going to be the same endless adventure of weekly trail runs and spontaneous recons.  No more foolish (agaw buhay) and careless behavior on the trails though the feeling of freedom and flight would never diminish.  None of the spontaneous hikes into wherever my feet would take me but the excitement would still be there.  I guess I can’t afford to go through the same ordeal I went through last year while waiting for the knee to recuperate.

If anything, I’d learned that no matter how addicting, one need not be in the trails every weekend to be a strong and fast trail runner.  Strength and speed can be honed in the gym, the road and running clinics.  Yep, even if the nearest hills are less than an hour by foot from our doorstep.  It’s not that I suddenly abhor the mud, those skin-lacerating cogons and getting toasted (until you forget your true shade), it’s just that I don’t have the convenience of time and crossing out a full day to explore Balabag or Deadman’s trail a whole Sunday.  Just like that, the demands of the clinic seem to outweigh the call of the mountains.

Or maybe I’m just getting old, you know – gathering wisdom (while gathering dust) and acting more with my mind than via my instinct.  Whatever.

I think I’ve reached my peak 2 years ago when I can tackle ultra-trail races, challenging terrains, inclement weather and still show up at the finish line in one piece.  I’m now in my cruise/maintenance mode – still taking on the trails and mountain races without pushing my body to its mortal limits.  It’s a journey that sees no end except to pause and take in all the spectacular sceneries, every now and then.  Sorry, there’s no stopping this old goat, a 49-year old mountain goat, if you will.


Call me grandpa when you let me eat your dust along the trails, I don’t mind.

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A Blazing Story of the Running Goddess

Note:  This is my 7th article for Frontrunner magazine and is an amalgamation of the various sexiest and colorful female runners I’ve encountered on the road.  It came out during the magazine’s special issue on Women.

by Kitty Cat Runner

Before I came into the spotlight, the local running world was drenched with sweaty, smelly guys whose only purpose in life was to cross that darn finish line, claim their loots and go home.  I know it was that boring and remised of color and spectacle.  And no one took notice of their feats, how fast they were, how hard they trained and how much time they’ve sacrificed to achieve their goals.  Soon enough, running was already running the danger of being relegated into the dustbin of sports history…

Until it suddenly gained a new found life around 2009 – that’s when my running career came roaring in.  Yes, yes, I was there when the new wave in running suddenly surged and I grabbed onto it like a blazing comet and took charge of my new found career – the running diva of the new millenium.  Seriously, it was never in my plans but the running universe was in search of a nova star – somebody who’ll bring the fun back in fun runs, be the mistress of marathons, the diva of dashes, the siren of sprints, the flame in the darkness and desperation of despondent runners who fail to make the cut-off time (but still insist on getting that medal).  So I stepped up the plate and became the ambassadress in running as the sexy and stimulating muse of road races.


Base training, VO2max, lactate threshold – just what the hey are they?  I came here to relish a street party and trumpet my showbiz running career.  Sorry I have no plans of finishing early and what?  Deprive my time to meet and greet my fans along the route?  I value them like my plastic jewelry collection and they’re the reason I wake up really early in the morning and abstain from my Saturday night life so they deserve more than my snob and animosity.  I don’t want to hear another item of distraught fans jumping off the Manila Bay and disintegrating in its grime and flotsam.

So here I am shimmying across Roxas boulevard with its flank of garish sputnik lamp posts and I feel like I’m sashaying across the red carpet as cameras snap and cheers & claps erupt from the curious onlookers and even fellow runners.  What can I say – they know a true diva when they see one.  So I reciprocate them with my feigned smile, calculated hand waves and blown kisses at every turn.  As the finish approaches, I make a conscious check of pretty old me – no running mascara, check, no messy hairdo nor sweaty armpits, check, check.  I have taken on this role of road muse and intend to play it to the hilt.   I mustn’t disappoint my gaggle of male admirers who would be watching every move I make, every step I take.  Sting could even be one of them.

Of course, as a part of showbiz royalty, threats abound – those cheap, catty, copy cats, they abound like stray cats in the night, ready to pounce and grab the glitter off my running streak.  But they won’t thrive – the outfits, the make-up, the drama – they either look like second rate courtesans or some out-of-job mascots.   It’s would take them a lifetime to even approximate my class, stature and influence.  But they can be plain mean and vicious.

Once my Facebook status only reaped a measly 300 LIKES and I thought I was losing my touch.  Where have all my minions gone?  Even worse was when a picture of me in one unflattering angle suddenly popped in the internet and spread like wild fire as those despicable netizens had a party taunting, chitchatting and making fun of their running goddess.  Such blasphemy.  I wallowed in misery but only for a day, for the next day was another chance to reinvent myself.  It’s all about keeping them interested, intrigued and seduced in my little universe.  And that I got in spades.

To be sure, I do have my share of bashers.  All that vitriol and negative vibe and back stabbing – they keep mushrooming everyday in social media, in hushed whispers and team drunken get-togethers.  And yes, my sparrows do inform me their chatter revolves around me and my pink universe of waterproof make-ups, scented moisturizers, rainbow-striped calf guards and fancy visors.

But you can’t knock a shining shimmering icon like moi – for I do have my fan base of deranged maniacs, dirty old running men (D.O.R.M.), awe-struck admirers and legion of stalkers – drooling at the sway of my hips, anticipating every jiggle of my puppies and at every pose I strike.  I hear they even have their secret Facebook page where they decode, decipher and discuss about me and my lesser starlets, the way fishwives would do on the docks of Storm’s End.  And who said men don’t gossip.  Duh.

Yep, it’s been quite a reign – longer than any queen can imagine.  Soon enough, I will be retiring from the road and I will be passing the crown to one of my wannabes, who have been forever breathing behind my neck.  I’m really considering taking on the dreary world of trail running.  I think they are in desperate need of a trail nymph to bring some sparkle and fun along those dark treacherous paths.  Anyway, it’s been quite a ride.  Better leave while I’m still at it.  To my legion of fans – I want them to always remember and cherish me, hopefully not for the wrong reason (Banana girl, who?) but as someone who inspired them to run and enjoy life in all its sparkle, color and world peace.  I thank you.

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The CM50 2015 Chronicles: when Frodo & Sam went to Mt. Doom and back…


RD Jon in his element at the starting line…

Except that there’s no peak to speak of, a landslide had cut off 2 kilometers going there. And there’s really no Frodo or Sam between me and Van because during this 80-km journey, we took turns taking the lead and burning the miles. It’s the landscape, really, which recalled the barren desert scape of Mordor laden with shifting river and lahar lands, endless hills, mountains and ascents plus one stunning and enormous waterfalls to conquer before reaching the turn-around and going back to where it all began – the Clark Parade Grounds.
Checking out the runners at 12 midnight (1 hour before the gun start), I can safely say that Van & I were the most well ‘stocked’ with our backpacks brimming with provisions, including 2 liters of frozen Pocari Sweat each while others were as minimal as one can get. We were here the year before, of course, but we just did the 60KM edition (which had a 16-hr cutoff). This time it’s the ultimate badass distance of 80 kilometers (18-hr cutoff) which I finished in 2012, so why the apprehension and uncertainty?Picture3
The race had already reached an international level (meaning it’s become a qualifying race for some of the most prestigious trail races including the UTMB, once the required points are reached) that we found ourselves running side by side with around 30 foreign participants. A total of 180 had registered yet around 140 only started (135 finished), if only to give one an idea of this race’s reputation. 2 kilometers from Clark, we entered the lahar area, crisscrossing mini-rivers and sand hills. Van took the lead while I glided along in the dark. [brain: so this is what we shall pass through later in the afternoon, if we ever make it on time – will we get scorched and go cuckoo, as last year?].

going Sacobia river marvin de guia
7 kilometers and 55 minutes later, we reached Aid Station (AS) 1 and everyone seemed hot to trot. We told ourselves that we just had to keep burning the miles while the sun is still out and the energy is still on a high. So we went up, up, up through that endless stairs, thickets, cogon passageways and wherever the reflective markers led us. At least thrice, we had to use all fours to make the descent but the dark melted one’s perspective and one hardly notices how steep he’s going down. [brain: let’s see how you’d do with the sun in its scorching, searing presence on the return trip].mg
Passing through the Sacobia River, one had to sashay around obstacles of rocks and mild valleys. My once powerful lamp I purchased a month ago was suddenly waning (I forgot that its extra large battery required charging) that I had to let Van light our way. AS 2 (KM18) was near the passage into the cogon and corn fields, leading to the Sandbox area and skimming the SCTEX. Soon, we were descending and entering barangay Sapang Uwak. The ascents began but less than an hour later, we reached AS 3 (KM23) at 4:30 am. Quite fast by our standard but by the time we ventured towards AS 4, Van was getting bored and sleepy. I, myself, was also feeling the fatigue and the struggle of those endless and very steep climbs. But we persisted keeping our slow but constant pace and sustaining ourselves with enough water and food to last a day.12246924_10208439637206605_8747272606471558824_n mvdg
Finally after an eternity (5:45 hours), we saw the colorful AS 4. We hardly stopped and kept on conquering more hills on the way to the peak. Mr. Sun was already in its full glory but we were shielded by the hills around as we kept enjoying the cool weather and the stunning views even with the increasing elevation. There were a few rolling terrains but we knew we were ascending, one step at a time. The lead runners started packing the trail and we knew we were near the turn-around. News reached us that 2 kilometers (a total of 4, really) had been cut off due to a landslide and I knew that we will be making the cut. I reckoned a total of 1 hour had been deleted from our race.
To while away my time, I counted the runners coming in to determine our standing. At the turnaround point, I placed us at 110th so I told Van that we should get in at least into the Top 100 (let’s do some tuhog-tuhog). It was more of a joke, really but the guy had a resurgence of energy, especially with the endless downhills that when we got to AS4, we had reached 93rd place. The ranks would keep shifting, for sure but that second wind definitely boosted our waning spirits.
AS4 was led by singing diva Benj Termulo who helped us rest and replenish before going down to the wondrous and surging Miyamit Falls. The cool dip, including some customary washing and removal of the accumulated pebbles, never failed to bring new life and energy after 48 kilometers of continuous struggle. We left AS 4 (or 30 kms to go) with 8 hours and 15 minutes to go – that’s less than 4 kilometers per hour.12274382_10208439637726618_625927526128809819_n
598542_4241173742242_660676977_nI had to take the lead at this time since Van’s energy had diminished after that cool dip (I know, very strange indeed). And so the endless search for AS3 started. With the inclination of our descents in full view, I could hardly grasp the difficulty and complexity (read: rocks and rocks abound) of these same hills we trotted on with gusto a few hours before. It was daunting at first but we got the hang of it – gliding down fast then walking up to burn the miles, as fast as our knees and legs can take.
Sanctuary in the form of AS3 finally came with Joma Sison, prodding (blaring at our ears, actually) us weary runners that we have 23 kilometers to go at 6 hours before the cutoff. We had definitely slowed down by this time, reduced to walking with minimal jogging going to AS2. KM 18 (AS2) to KM 7 (AS1), I knew, would be the most harrowing with around 3 steep long climbs and passages through high grassy lahar alleys, river ways and slippery downhills with the searing sun following us. So we kept the pace going.12278691_10208439638646641_6324379105681172586_n11224668_10208439637046601_5029486402918876995_n (1)
This was perhaps the most positive stress (Will we make the cut?) I needed to help me push myself and follow Van who’s back to his vibrant self (Yes, it’s the age. Period). He told me later that he just wanted to end our little ordeal, faster and sooner. During our race, we hardly exchanged words except when we needed to eat, piss, rest a bit (more of me) and make some calculations and estimates on the time and distance (still me).
The final few kilometers leading to Puning Spa (near AS1) was as endless, long and boring as I had imagined it to be but with the soft sand to navigate on, movement was slow and dragging. Soon the concrete road came and we were flying towards KM 7 and we knew in a matter of 2 hours, we will be cleaning our shoes and hanging our feet.12294866_10208439638246631_3600173574872158778_n
The journey along planet lahar was cooler than I had perceived. It was around 4 pm and the shadows of the hills had blanketed our way but I was still lazy to run. I told Van I’d run once we reached the Clark vicinity. We were already savoring our accomplishment at this point. Once inside Clark we managed to jog and trot a bit then dash into the final 300 kilometers to the cheers and congratulations of the waiting crowd. We reached the finish line at 16:53:45 ranking 98th and 99th.
And yes, it was gratifying, life-affirming, glorious and precioussss as I dreamed it would be…Picture2
Casualties of war: Minor sunburns on the neck, legs and face (though I imagined Kris Aquino agonizing in pain if it happened to her), chaffing galore on the nether regions and the soles of both feet (I used my old Asics road shoes since my Salomon felt tighter from all the trainings and races prior).
Congratulations to Atty. Jon Lacanlale for keeping the fire burning in the local trail running scene with CM50 and all its variations. Our profuse gratitude to all the Aid Station marshalls for keeping us sustained and taken care of during the race duration (special mention goes to Benj, Chips & Joma). Thanks to BoyP and Team Marupok for all the trail training sessions (text text soon) and our Milo Apex R2 QC group for our tri-weekly trainings. Special shout out goes to all the old and new acquaintances and friends we met on the trails and the mountains. I guess I’m back but first I got to find me a new pair of trail shoes with a wider toe box.
Special thanks go to Dr. Evelyn Ponce & Dr. Doodsie Mallari for our medical clearances.
Thanks to Alfred and Simon (congrats on your new CM50 PRs!) for the endless post-race stories and keeping me awake during the 2-hour drive home. Alf & Van had dozed off once we hit NLEX. And for my ever sleepy partner, Van for struggling to maintain our sanity and strength in the face of monotony, fatigue, rising temperatures and fluctuating elevation during the race.
Gorgeous photography by Running Photographers, Raceday, Arnold Banaay, Marvin de Guia & Adrian Aquino


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50 kilometers for this 50-year old

Since October is my birthday month, what better (and maddening) way to conclude my 50th name day than with a 50KM Trail Run. The elevation graph seemed simple enough but DBB Mountain Rockstar trail run is one deceptive little devil along the mountains (Mt. Batolusong) of Tanay & Baras, Rizal. The truth (and ordeal) unravels as one starts trudging those endless scenic ascents. We started early at 4 am and the initial onslaught, powered with excitement and anticipation was quite fast, as we clambered over boulders and crossed rushing rivers and waterfalls. But in the back of my mind, I knew it would be a pain, going through the same route backwards on the return trip.

ready to rumble!

ready to rumble!

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Morning greeted us with a sea of clouds near the summit and an ocean of cogons swaying by the wind plus our first assault on Rangyas peak, a moderate climb passing through a bamboo cover capped by some mean rock climbing to reach the top. So far, everyone was having the time of their lives.

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Next goal was to take on Bundok Susong Dalaga – another endless ascent where the turn-around gave each runner a star (a 50K finisher should have amassed 7 stars on his race bib).
By mid morning, the sun has come out in its full glory and assaulting the final peak (the radar), a mere 400 meters of lung-busting climb can deplete one’s energies. My partner Van was already a bundle of negative vibes but we persisted. Finally, we were led to our mini-oasis, a wade through the cool rivers of Kay Ibon waterfalls. It was a time to get our senses back and prepare to final descent (featuring very sharp drops among rivers and ravines) to KM 25, the turn around point and starting line.

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By this time, Van had decided to remain in the cool, comforting gymnasium of Barangay San Andres while I made my way back to take on the final 25 kms. The climb back on the same path had me stopping and resting many a time – the fatigue and the heat was already taking its toll. This was very similar to my TNF 2013 experience from KM54 going up but more difficult, I think. Maybe it’s the age.

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Passing through the same waterfalls and rivers, I reached my first climb to conquer on midday afternoon. I knew I wasn’t going to finish this race if I kept stopping throughout. So I went through the motion of taking on the snaking path of Radar mountain by moving for a minute then taking 30-second pauses. It was a regular pace which yielded good results. And in the heat of the moment, my spirits were lifted.

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Now it’s time to get to Susong Dalaga but first I had to pass through the many trail ways, mostly irregular strips of land shaped by the rushing waters from the mountains during the rainy season. I put my trail senses in active mode so I barely slipped nor tripped. With the scorching heat breathing on my neck, I had to take my breaks, regularly checking on my palpitation, urine color, nutrition and overall mental and physical conditions.
The hikes the second time around were more taxing and I felt I was moving on quick sand. But the diligence paid off. I reached Susong Dalaga turnaround point and was on my way to the final peak of Rangyas. Compared to that morning, the area was a lot sadder with very few runners in view. The saddest part was that they were already going down while I still had to climb up. A good 30 minutes later, I got my star.

If going down that boulder from the peak was a breeze in the morning, the second time around and 35 kilometers later, I was like an octopus holding on to dear life. My senses were already wracked up and my muscular responses (coupled with cramping on both the lower hamstrings) were a bit slow. Finally after what felt like eons, I reached the grassy areas and the marshall said I have 8 kilometers to go and everything was downhill.
Of course, I never believe everything I hear. And rightly so because the that final 8 kilometers felt like eternity that I thought I might have taken a wrong turn but the yellow ribbons abound so I was never in doubt. Finally, the rushing sound of rivers and my most dreaded encounter – the drop along the river which fortunately had 2 marshalls to guide us through. But it was starting to get dark so I traipsed through more rivers and cogon trails but the end was nowhere in sight.ddadgada
During our fast start that morning, I knew this part was short and sweet. Finally, the main road beckoned. A short turn and I got my final 7th star. I reached the finish line at 5:40 pm (13:40) and night time has totally cloaked the place in darkness. But I was glowing with satisfaction and relief. I just survived a 50KM ordeal – and the hardest, so far in my short trail history. Well, what do you know – I’m a mountain rockstar!  FYI, elevation gain was at 3,600 +++!



Thank you Dabobong (Rayman Delos Angeles), MGM production and the best trail race marshalls (particularly to Ronnel & Doc Joyce, Dianne, Daphne, Dexter, Bong and all the those helpful MGM team) one would ever encounter in the mountains for organizing and ably managing this memorable, grueling but eventually fulfilling experience. Cheers everyone!
Gorgeous pictures c/o Ariel Tuto Aquino, Eric Socrates, Ronnel Go, Tantoy Faustino and Dexter Salonga Dela Cruz.12195819_1100628869947969_1747658179772187260_n


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