This is my second Four Lakes 100KM Race (since 2012) and the journey never gets any easier, albeit more familiar and easier to navigate (but only in the day time). Fortunately, we had a purpose – to remember and dedicate all 100 kilometers of this race to a fallen former Team Boring mate & Milo Apex coach Leo Tugade (Toel) whose riddled body was discovered a day before…
So this was basically the main event in the first quarter of my 2015 running calendar. All the strengthening, conditioning, speed runs, registered road races (including the 7-11 marathon) and LSDs all culminated to this. This was also my first 100KM trail race since my knee surgery almost 1.5 years ago. And so we showed up at the Kayapa starting line in Nueva Vizcaya, 30 minutes before the 4 am gun start, feeling the mountain chill and palpable anxiety among the 90 100KM runners (a whopping jump from 26 in 2012).
I had me a younger pace partner (from Ronnel Go in 2012) in Van Denn Cruz who was most helpful and efficient in the uphills and the downhills. As indicated in the elevation graph, it was going to be one continuous climb with minimal descents in the first 10 kilometers. The energy and eagerness was quite high and with limited visibility on perspective (of the actual ascents), everyone was in a competitive mode. Daylight has struck when we reached Domolpos (KM17, AS2) with most of the elites already descending from Mt. Ugo. It was a slow continuous struggle towards the peak but we finally reached it and had our customary peak shots.
Then it was time to take on the Spanish Trail – 13 kilometers of stunning views and endless descents into AS4 (KM35, Kayapa Market Proper) which runners should reach within 8 hours or less. Fortunately, we reached it at 6:30 but we stayed long enough to gobble the appetizing meals and cheap halohalo. T’was 30 minutes of heaven.
Then came the looong and breathtaking climb up to Amelong Labeng into that steep hill where the cellular phone tower is situated.
We took short breaks in between but the surge never stopped in the face of the scorching heat and the ticking clock. Until the downhills came, albeit too steep and daunting. But we managed the way Ronnel and I did in 2012. A few more descents and we were down Castillo Village (KM49, AS5). It was 2:30 PM, 2.5 hours before the cut-off time into Dayap (KM56).
Many opted to take their time and rest while we left in a huff, recalling the taxingly continuous route to Dayap in 2012. And good old memory served us right because the journey was truly ambiguous and paved with DNF-prone moments, what with the endless and steep way to top. We reached it at 4PM and had an hour to devour something piping hot, change to new socks and refresh a bit. Before we left at 5PM, a few late comers tried to make the cut but heartbreakingly failed. It was a difficult scene to take as the mountains started to be cloaked in darkness.
By night time, the game changed with poorer visibility, fogging, near freezing weather and some rain but we kept pushing, very slowly lest we end up by the deep valley/raging river below. The road to Ambasa Pass (KM62) will always be difficult to ascend with its irregular path strewn with broken rocks and irregular terrain. But we persisted. After an eternity, the downhills came along with the long road to Banao. I thought that having passed this way before, the going would be a breeze. Of course, I will be proven wrong and my patience tested until the enigma that was Banao finally came in sight via that small light by the hill. 30 minutes of warming up and sustenance and we were on the return trip to Dayap (10:30 pm). We scrambled on an irregular and constantly changing trailway on the way up to Ambasa (KM76) until the down hills came. It was easier than the climb, for sure. But with low visibility and road studded with sharp rocks here and there, we were reduced to ambling and jogging our way down. Finally, Dayap beckoned and we knew we had only 18 kilometers to go.
After a brief rest, we continued our descent to Pangawan (KM85) into the elusive Mossy Forest which required another endless (and final!) climb as we kept searching for the yellow ribbons. We were already a group of 10 runners so it was easier to grope in the dark with 20 eyes. Soon enough, we entered its verdant chambers and just kept going for nearly an hour or so. It was one endless tunnel with no end in sight and relatively more sinister in the dark.
At the break of dawn, we were starting to go down, at last. I knew from the graph that this was one endless descent towards the finish line and would have been fast and a blast (as in 2012). But with my partner Van, wrecked and in pain (no injury but pure fatigue), I had to play the motivational pacer to trick him into moving. Fortunately, he responded in small continuous steps and some minor jogs. Van’s longest ultra trail race before this was just the CM60KM last year so this was quite expected. But banking on his youth and proper training, I knew he’d survive this one.
Soon (after running out of motivating and encouraging words), the finish line came into view and all the fatigue, sleepiness and hunger dissipated and I just wanted to take a bath and brush my teeth. 27 hours and 04 minutes it was.
Salamuch Frontrunner Magazine for one memorable and prestigious race, and of course my bib and the goodies! Cheers!
Photography by Ahon, Chinky Villavicencio, Randy Bierso and Frontrunner.