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Our Old Spanish Trail 54 Kilometer Journey


The last time I was in Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya was two years ago when we finished our Four Lakes 100K trail race. It was not the best our races since Van was still not used to such distance and time but we managed at a little over 27 hours.

It was only a matter of time when we finally made our come back since we’ve been concentrating on the trails of late. This was perhaps, one of my most enjoyable trail races I’ve experienced to date but it had also its low moments though the highs were more frequent and longer. Now let’s go back to the starting line at April 1, 2017, 3 am. It was a good 104 runners taking on the OST 50 race and we were properly garbed with our long black compression pants and base layers plus our trekking poles and we look like divers of some deep sea treasure. We arrived (along with my cousin Jessica) a day before and were able to invest on some good sleep so the spirits were high as we met up with old friends, Alfred, Simon, Doodsie and Carlo. And we were off on our rollercoaster journey of highs and lows. Here’s a run down…

High on KM 2: The eagerness, cool windy weather, the dark trails, the happy company of runners (even if jostling to overtake each other) were just too infectious as we kept moving like there’s no tomorrow before the sun could come out. It was a trying climb but to see others struggle with you takes the weight out of it. Soon, we were beginning to go down as we kept pounding the ideally packed solid earth. My Peregrines (I bought 3 weeks ago) were adjusting a bit but once tightened at KM 9, we were soaring like the peregrine falcons.
High on KM 15: Taking on the the new Ansipsip route which dips tremendously towards a brook and the rice fields then suddenly pulling us up on a continuous ascent towards Mt. Ugo. There was hardly a perception of distance and depth as the whole place was relatively cloaked in darkness with flanks of headlamps moving around the trails like fleeting fireflies. I thought I had landed on Rivendell.
Low on KM 21: The ascent to the peak of Ugo is perhaps just a kilometre but with an elevation gain of 350 meters, it was an ordeal to keep a constant pace on its rocky, rooty route. Our trusty trekking poles served us well as we employed our shoulders to pull our bodies up, one step at a time.

 

High on KM 22: But once we have reached the peak and taken in the awesome scenery, we knew it was time to fly. At first, the steep and irregular descent was a bit difficult to navigate but once it eased out, we were free falling and enjoying every moment of it. The route would take us on hairline trails under the cover of giant pines and sweeping vistas. It reminded me of how gorgeous the mountains and landscape of Nueva Vizcaya were so I always keep coming back. Suddenly. Disaster…17499536_1890147474557131_7505941367932533283_n (1)
Low on KM 25: Slipping on a single track downhill path and getting splayed at the edge of the ravine. Stayed for a few moments until the runner behind assisted me to get off my ass and start moving again. It was a sweet reminder of how a single misstep could easily lead to big blow or injury. The going got a tad slower after but I hardly made any stops. It was an endless undulating descent around mountain edges.
Low on KM 30: The endless descent going to Kayapa East Market as we tried to beat the clock for the 8-hour cut-off time while battling fatigue and keeping up with my younger and faster partner. The knees were taking all the brunt that variations in my cadence and footfalls had to be done.
High on KM 35: We reached AS4 in less than 7 hours so we took all the rest, liquid and food (the Halo-halo was still a winner!) we could get as we prepared to the next battle ahead. And there it was. Looming in front of us was the Wall, as high and as steep at the one in Winterfell.
Low on KM 36: Going up Amelong Labeng in the early part as I tried to fathom and calculate the extent of our continuous climb with the sweltering heat zapping me at every step. Many seasoned runners were dropping like flies but Van was never pausing except to hydrate and wait for that cute old guy from below. It’s not even fast but a constant plodding and moving along the zigzagging trail. So what was his secret weapon?


High on KM 37: After I caught up with him, he told me to incorporate breathing with movements of the trekking poles. Breath in upon planting the pole then breath out upon retrieval. It was hard at first but once I got the hang of it, I was moving more regularly and was slowing down less. It worked wonders and soon we were on our way towards the two towers.
Low on KM 41: The communication towers seem light years away and with a kilometre of continuous uphills, my energy and enthusiasm was beginning to dry up. I was moving at a glacial pace and taking breaks in between. Before I was about to call it quits, an oasis in the desert materialized – the Marupok contingent with multitudes of spicy tuna sandwich and cold drinks was the jolt I needed at that moment. (Maraming Salamat, Team Marupok!) With less than 15 kilometers to go, it was time to mine our remaining power.

 

High on KM 43: Once the downhills started, I knew we were on a roll. We kept moving while taking advantage of the gravitational pull. The grassy soil would lead to double concrete trail strips but we just kept going and overtaking certain runners. Whenever I was getting bored and tired, Van would play our little game – 3 concrete borders of walking and 3 borders of jogging. It burned the kilometres and kept us distracted from the rising temperature.
Low on KM 51: After an eternity (average pace of 12min/km means 5 kilometers per hour), we finally reached the main highway with a kilometre to reach the last aid station. It was a hot and draining walk but once there, a cup of piping soup (served by my cousin Jessica who also acted as medic at Castillo station) and some solid food and we were off and running.

Australian runner James Kalleske caught up with us and we let him go ahead but it was a downhill road so we kept chasing him on the last 3 kilometers. We finished #31 and #32 with a time of 10:54:49 (out of 83 finishers). Now that’s one high we won’t forget too soon.

Thank you Frontrunner Magazine (RD Jonel and Ms. Con Mendoza) for a punishing, surprising, memorable, well-organized and professionally-manned trail race. Thank you to all the volunteers who gave us power and confidence during our low moments during the race. Congratulations to all participants! Kayapa holds a special place in my heart with all the highs and lows I’ve experienced on its wondrous trails since 2012. See you all in the trails soon! Cheers!

Awesome photography courtesy of Team Marupok, Jaja Ferrer, Laiza C. Manuel, Active Pinas & Jessica Gonzaga.  Cheers!OST elevation50k


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The Maragondon Five Peaks Trail Marathon


It’s our first time to do a trail race in Cavite which we never imagined would have hills, even mountains. And what we thought would be a short journey from Marikina took us over 3 hours. Well so much for assumptions.

The trail scene has changed quite significantly for the last few years that faces were no longer familiar. Fortunately, Van and I took in Jonel Mendoza and Lito Lopez on our way to Maragondon and was welcomed by RD Benedict Menesis, the same guy who guided us on the crucial.paths of the first edition of the Hardcore100 (2013) until he disappeared in the dark and we were left on our own devices.


Now back to 2017. It was a sparsely occupied gym of the public school where runners from all over the Metro have congregated, mostly unfamiliar yet pleasingly warm faces. Around 114 runners have signed up for the 42K edition and by 3 am we were released.

It was a good 2 kilometers of rolling road with a swinging bridge around the town before exiting finally on dirt trails. A few kilometers into the race, we made a sudden turn going down an endless path strewn with sharp rocks and pebbles. It was only then that I realized my headlamp was emitting a weak light. Add to the recipe my returning newbie skills with my new trekking pole and trail shoes I just bought 5 days ago and it was a disaster waiting to happen. And so it was one slippery turn after another. No major falls really but the struggle was real especially at the turn around tracing the same way going up.  Many runners were awaiting for daylight to reveal so they can navigate more consistently and lessen their slips.

Before the brightness would take over, I had a nasty fall where I sprained my right pinkie with my trekking pole and it still hurts as I write this. The unexpected muscular strain resulted to cramping which was easily eased by the kind souls around me. More ordeals were in the offing. Some mild coughing had emanated coupled with activated gag reflexes as I felt my throat dry up. A few kilometers later, I felt acidity in my tummy and was near to vomiting all the solids I’ve consumed during the trip to Cavite. Memories of TNF 100 in 2013 came rushing in and I wanted to just quit. Then I felt my stomach croaking that I had to find me a dark corner and unload the extra food I’ve devoured for the last few hours.

Ten minutes later (KM 18), I was back to life – no more vomiting nor acidity nor fatigue, as if I had resurrected from the dead.

And just I like that it was time to rock and roll. Amidst cool breezy weather, the sun slowly revealed some of nature’s lovely rock formations, ragged cliff structures and thick verdant forest grounds. It was an easy rolling terrain entering minor hills, rivers and expansive fenced ranch areas. We saw one quarry site but in general, it’s obvious the local government is protecting them from illicit occupants and kaingeros. Soon, we were going up – nothing really challenging but it slowed the pace in general. But we weren’t complaining as the territory was covered with medium sized trees and the sceneries at every turn were picturesque.17361927_667789986746760_5726279839157362711_n

As the angulation became sharper, we knew were nearing the peak (Mt. Bolboc) and the turn around. Many runners have deposited themselves in the peak area as they replenished their liquid and food supplies. We hardly stayed and began our downhill journey. Now was the perfect time to test our Saucony peregrines for some semi-technical descents and topography changes. And they didn’t disappoint. They were clawing and sticking on steep curves and slippery soil. And off we flew.

An hour or so later, the land flattened and we took on the road leading to the Bonifacio Monument, where Andres and his brothers were assassinated upon orders of Aguinaldo. A very technical climb on a hill gave us our third and last band. And then we were on the road back to the finish. No more challenges lay ahead so we gave our all in the final 5 kilometers, halting every now and then, then zooming on. We were able to go past some runners as the familiar town road soon took us to where we had began. We reached the finish at 7:28 ranking #s 52 and 53. Congratulations to Conquer led by Benedict Menesis for a satisfying and memorable race! Cheers!

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Special thanks to the photographers who recorded our struggles and triumph – Shawn Michaels, John Eruel Oquino and SPDS group.