With the TNF 100 (The North Face) fast approaching, I knew I had to get a feel of going up and down a real mountain – not city trails or stairs. Fortunately, Team Kulit was fielding 4 contenders for the mountain trail run at Baguio and beyond. Me, Chinky and Reylynne are taking on the 100KM category while Sheila is running the 50Ms. Along with Boringer Keshia, we ventured early morning into Cavite via the coastal road passing through various towns and endless roads, practically crawling and running out of stories to share. Finally, after what felt like eternity, we settled at the DENR compound and waited for our guide Alex, also stuck in traffic. By 10 am, we were traversing a trail going up into the peak of Pico de Loro.
Except for scattered areas of cogon covered trails, majority of the route was canopied by mature trees so we were hardly exposed to the now scorching sun. Soon enough, Keshia and I were sprinting along the soft trail with Chinky a few steps behind. The ground was quite soft without being slippery and except for some random stones, it’s basically flat so it was liberating to glide and move with little effort. A few kilometers later, the path started ascending and it became testy just to bring one’s body one step up and so on. A strong and worked out shoulder was a lot of help. But the pace never let up only stopping to wait for the others and when we felt we were lost. Our only guide were the ribbons attached to the branches as we made our way up.
The path went up and down moving across tree trunks, creeks, giant boulders and overgrown giant roots. The effort was twice compared to running on pavement but being in the heart of a tropical forest serenaded by sounds of insects and birds, the feeling was magical. Suddenly, I’m a child again – awe-inspired and fascinated by nature’s little wonders.
Finally the path led to an open area where many of the climbers were huddled on rocks and grassy spaces. It was the stopover where one can take in the the glorious views of the peak (resembling a parrot’s beak) and the surrounding rock formations (where we espied some climbers sprawled). After the customary picture taking we set out to conquer the summit which seemed to tilt too vertically, one can easily fall into the edge of Batangas.
The trick (at least for me) is to keep looking up and finding spaces/undercuts to position one’s feet and hands while climbing the peak. Quite tricky since some surfaces were covered with pebbles and dried grass. After endless struggles, we finally made it. Expectedly, the view was glorious and surreal. Just perfect. We tried to stay longer but soon enough, we knew we will be contending with the steep path going down.
Sliding (dumausdus) would not be a wise choice as one might easily find himself hanging by some sharp cliff. So we crawled our way down at the early portion of the path while looking down at our very steep destination which seemed to end at the center of the earth. Finally, I reached the point where I’m able to stand up while going down and in just a few minutes I was at the stopover area. Soon enough we were making our way down with Chinky, our downhill queen, leading the way. She was followed by Rey then me and Keshia & Sheila.
It was a joy to follow Chinky who was most nimble on the descent, stepping effortlessly on well chosen stone or earth then promptly shifting to the next step with such fairy-like lightness, she was almost floating. Now this is the runner I’d like to join on the endless descents of the TNF100. After 4 hours, we were back where we started. We estimated the distance at 20 kms. Now if I could just multipy that distance by 5 with the same time then I’d finish by 20 hours. Wishful thinking especially when one considers the weather, elevation and the night runs. Fortunately, the return trip was much faster that we were still able to have a hearty meal of ramen at some Capitolyo resto. All in a day’s effort.
P.S. Two days after we did our ‘Puyat’ run this time with Jenny at the Bonifacio Global City from 11 pm to 5 am. The goal was to condition our system into staying up at night while still having the energy to run, climb and descend. Done it during the BDM 160KM so I just hope we would still have the power to cross the finish line in less than 30 hours. So help me God.
Photography by Chinky Villavicencio & Keshia Fule