It was during this time last year when I started running ultra races almost every 2 weeks as a way to prepare & condition for my Bataan Death March 160KM early this year. It did strengthen me alright, both physically and mentally but those races were more memorable for the historic blisters I developed and nurtured from one ultrarun to the next, than anything else. And that seemingly harmless growth first saw light in the trails of Nuvali during my first official trail run last year – a good 57KMs.
I’d like to believe that all those trail runs/climbs I’ve done for some months now have honed my skills in moving along irregular trail routes. So when the Nuvali Trail Run came in the calendar, I knew I had to revisit the origins of ‘that’ blister and hopefully keep it out of sight and do a blistering finish at the run. Team Kulit (Dave, Chinky, Sheila, Reylynne & Sej) was also born in the trails of Nuvali so as a way of celebrating our first year, we chose to do a team run for the 31KM leg then celebrate thereafter.
So last July 1, Team Kulit clad in white sleeved tops and black shorts took off from the starting line at 5:15 am. It was a team start but a few meters after I had shoot off into the leadpackers with Rey following later (to finish 3rd among the women). The exhilarating feeling of watching the sun slowly reveal nature’s wondrous beauty was enough to keep me moving with earnest eagerness and excitement.
Maybe it was the shock-absorbent earth or the ever-changing sceneries but trail runs never fail to give me a jolt of unexpected awe and bliss while traversing the rolling terrain. In my mind’s eye, I was Mercury delivering the message of the gods across the universe with some pump and push from Gaga & Fun. It had rained the night before but thankfully, the muddiness of the trails wasn’t as bad as I had imagined it. Unlike in Timberland (Merrell Adventure Run), I hardly slipped or lost balance, moving with familiar ease and hiking up during the ascents which were still very negligible.
Soon, I was outrunning some of the 56KMers who had started 15 minutes earlier. Soon thoughts of breaking into the Top 20 started dancing in my head. I had no timer or whatever device with me to determine how far or fast I’ve been going but I knew I was faster than I usually was.
Just when everything was going well, of course, something had to happen. During the final leg of the race, I trained my eyes on the nearest runner in front of me (after the 56KMers took a right turn for their 2nd loop) and never let him go. I even followed him when he re-entered the trails upon seeing the blue ribbons. With the tortuous route, I easily lost sight of him but still kept moving c/o of Nicki Minaj. Something inside, though, was telling me something, ‘Aren’t you moving away from the clubhouse where you’re supposed to finish?’ But I had no idea how many more kilometers I had to go. And I was getting deeper into the cogon wilderness.
Until I saw 56KM runner Dick Balaba who told me that I had entered the 2nd loop of the 56KM route. Suddenly, Nicki Minaj was no longer super bass. Tracing back, I met 8 fellow 31KMers who followed me into my wrong turn. On the way back, I was imagining how many runners have overtaken us during this unexpected detour, an estimated 4KMs. Bushed but not beaten, I tried moving while still hoping for a decent finish.
Finally, the pyramidal roof of the Nuvali clubhouse loomed and I tried to join our ‘lost command’, scurrying into the finish. I crossed at 4:02 (#40) and waited for the rest of the team Kuliters to arrive. By 4:30, we had completed the group, all 6 finishing nicely and injury-free. Along with Paz & Dave’s kids, we hied off into Army & Navy where I belatedly treated the group for my King of the Mountain 100KM triumph.
Guess what? As in my many trail runs, no blisters sprouted and my feet remained cleaned and uninjured.
Stunning images are courtesy of Gey Enriquez, Runner’s Circle (Raul Acuna), Rene Vallarta, Chinky Villavicencio & Maxell Flores