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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.