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When the fierce and the fearless face their fears


They say ultra trail runners are some of the coolest and the baddest of the bunch in a world where less than 10 percent of its denizens have an active and regular healthy lifestyle.  By healthy we may think that hitting the gym 3x a week and doing our weekend long runs on trails to no end is enough.  Add the fact that we eat healthier than many (though that’s still subject to debate) and we have our regular 8-hour sleeps (while our contemporaries have to resort to sleeping drugs).  And we feel invincible.  The fact is underneath those bulging quads and strong core muscles lies a complex body system which can actually be faltering without showing any symptom from the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, we all need to undergo our annual physical examinations.  Ever since I was diagnosed with essential hypertension 4 years ago, undergoing those rigorous x-rays, blood tests and laboratory works has become a yearly ritual courtesy of my health insurance plan.  And I thought everyone was doing the same thing, especially those who have reached their 40s.  So it was a surprise when most runners (and even triathletes) I asked seem to (or chose to) ignore this crucial annual medical checkup.

The rationale usually goes that since they have their regular physical activity and basically look fit (though that is still a subject of contention), they need not get in contact with a needle and have their blood siphoned to gauge their health level.  They ‘know’ that they have no problem, physically and physiologically.  See these rippling back muscles and steely gluteus maximus.  Now let’s run into the sunset…

Well, here’s a wakeup call, guys.  Those sub-1:45 21Ks and sub-6 50Ks – they won’t last forever, not even in the next 5 years.  Unless, one is persistent, disciplined, organized and passionate, but most of us mortals will fall on the wayside to give way to the young turks who can easily run circles around us.  For the years I’ve been into running, I’ve seen many colleagues rise to meteoric highs, peak and soon disappear into oblivion.  And they move on to the next health craze.  Parkour, anyone?

I’m what you may call a Keeper.  I don’t move from one hobby or passion to the next.  Once I’ve found my calling, I latch on to it for as long as I can and just keep going.  I guess that’s how you’d describe my running career – a long well drawn out journey with hardly any finish line in sight.  So I’m in it for the long haul, thus the need to maintain my over-all health, patience and sanity.  No short cuts, no supplemental drinks or vitamins (not even glucosamines with chondroitin), no drugs (except for my anti-hypertensives), no stimulants/uppers (except for some energy gels).  And most of all, I religiously have my regular physical assessment, which this year just included the dreaded (and painfree) but potentially lifesaving colonoscopy procedure.  Soon, I will be including my prostate examination.

An M.D.-patient of mine once quipped (when I told her of my regular barrage of medical and laboratory examinations) that perhaps, I’m might be in continuous search for problems in my body.  Which could hold true but more importantly, I simply want a functioning healthy body that I would be utilizing on my runs and adventures.  Whether it’s my car, house, clinic or body, the key is still prevention so I won’t have to blame myself if I ever found damage or problems which could have easily been resolved upon early diagnosis.

So yes, that’s my long term plan and execution.  It’s not totally fail safe but at least I have a road map to where I’m heading.  My partner complains that I stress myself too much on planning and analysis but that’s just what I’m made of.   It’s in my DNA and in the 52 years I’ve been in this world, thinking ahead has always put things in perspective and guided me through life’s confusing and convoluted boulevards.

So, are you ready to face one of life’s most feared rituals?  You know – blood, needles, hospitals, laboratory and physical examinations – don’t worry it’s not as bad as it seems.  In fact, it could actually add quality to your twilight years.  Now picture yourself at 70, still trudging along some lost trail in the steamy jungles of Reunion Island.  Now wouldn’t that be swell?

 


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Trail Wonders and Late Night Encounters


By Van Denn Cruz, D.V.M.

“Doc, emergency!”
Dazzled from my REM deep sleep, I had to peel off the covers and get up from my bed. Our veterinary assistant was pounding the door at 2:00 AM.
“The patient is vomiting and pooping blood” the assistant greeted me as I opened the door. “Looks critical.” He greeted me with his half-swollen eyes and a literally out-of-bed look.
I hurried downstairs to our emergency department’s treatment room. A worried client was almost in tears, presenting her dog in a debilitated state.
“Good morning. What happened to him?” I asked.
“He just puked and pooped blood a while ago. He collapsed afterwards.” After which a flood of tears came running down her cheeks.
As a doctor in a 24/7 veterinary hospital, I had countless nights of staying up late attending to numerous emergency cases. Such practice requires waking up in the unholiest of hours to save a four-legged, tail wagging munchkin.

During those times, I can’t help but credit the times I had also been awake at 2 AM with my feet pounding on soil and gravel along treacherous trails. It was my source of comfort.
Our local trail races usually start when the stars and moon still alight the dark sky. I always enjoy that time when everything is so quiet and peaceful up in the mountains. No life and death situations. No stressful cases and patients. No vet emergencies. It’s just you and your natural biological habitat. I value the feeling when the cold wind embraces my warm body and gives me some relief. It’s awesome to see the moon glow amid the sleeping yellow lights of the city below. Up there the trees stand eerily tall and quiet, casting shadows on the beaten path. For several hours I escape the crazy and busy urban jungle I have below the hills. I am free.

Feeling for a weak pulse, I immediately put the adult, male mongrel on an Oxygen mask. His femoral pulse was weak and asynchronous. We attached an IV catheter to establish a venous access and immediately gave doses of the medicines we deemed necessary. The heart beat was very quick and the legs were getting cold.
“What’s happening!? Pooochieeeeee! Nooooooooo!” the client screaming her head off.
“Poochie is in a state of shock. We need to up his blood pressure so the different parts of his body can equally receive the right amount of blood it needs” I replied.
The client was on the verge of hysteria as we put the patient under a heat lamp.
“Chie-chie don’t leave me!!!”
The client charged to her dog and smothered his head with kisses and tears. Adrenaline was bouncing from room to room.
We were defined by the white walls and glass walls of our space. The space was bare and hissed with the sound of Oxygen. The white fluorescent ceiling lights casted ominous shadows on the empty room and chairs beside us.

My right foot got stuck in ankle-deep mud as I finished my downhill descent. Focusing my head lamp below, I found my way out of the obstacle. Several meters from where I stood is a stream of jet black water. The sound of dribbling fluid played its song under the cover of the night. I sat at the bank and scooped out water. I drank it even when I was not thirsty. It was great to be in such a tranquil place.
“He’s gone!!!” the client shouted to me as the mutt’s ECG reading flat lined.
The heart beat was gone. The ECG indicated a systole – cardiac arrest.
I injected epinephrine with the hope of reviving its failing heart and administered chest compressions.
The client filled the room with her rage and hysteria. It was a scene straight out of an afternoon soap opera. Her loud painful cries resonated the quiet halls of our facility. It’s as if she was losing her mind. Her heartache was reverberating throughout the whole building. It was just too much to bear.

It was a steep uphill climb when my sweat started to pour and my heart started to beat tremendously fast. My quads began to complain. But I was having a great time feeling this suffering. The crickets were humming in unison. I started to walk slowly, rethinking of how terrible and euphoric I was at the same time. I closed my eyes and became more aware of myself and the peace that the experience was bestowing upon me.
The dog started to have a cardiac activity on the ECG. We all felt a wave of relief. He stabilized after several minutes. The rodenticide antidote must be working its magic.
We all sat down and I looked outside. The night deemed to be long and infinite. “So far, so good” I murmured. I turned my attention back to the client. “This is her second life” I told her.
“Thank you so much, Doc. I thought I was going to lose him. For 10 years, he was my source of strength and happiness. I can’t imagine a life without him.”
I smiled to her and checked Poochie. He was breathing normally and his mentation was somewhat improving. Laying on the table was this large, well-loved dog who was someone else’s family member.
“He accidentally ate the rat poison that our maid left open on our kitchen table. I was furious about it. You think he’ll make it?”
“It depends on the amount of poison Poochie’s body has absorbed. I’m afraid he may have had a lot of it.”
“Please do everything you can!” as tears welled again. “I had lost so much pets in the past few years. I don’t want it to happen again.”
“The outcome of this treatment will ultimately depend on Poochie’s fighting will and response to the medications.” I said.
Suddenly, Poochie had a seizure. The ECG was thumping with a series of tachycardias.
I hurriedly administered an anti-convulsive medication.

I drifted on top of CM50’s highest peak. It was dawn. The sunlight glistened on the evergreen fields of grasses. The clouds were hiding by the landscapes below. It was chilly and we barely made it to the cut off time at the turn around. My partner was smiling as we stopped by to sit down and ingest the awe of what we were seeing. We opened our zip lock bag of trail mix. I laid down on the blanket of grass beneath me while I munched on the nuts and dried fruits. We were halfway through the course.

In my mind, Lana del Rey’s Video Game single was playing. “Heaven is a place on earth with you/Tell me all the things you wanna do/I hear that you like all the bad girls/Honey, Is that true?”.
I was humming on the song as Poochie finally collapsed. Heart rate gone, breathing is none. I looked at his owner, indignant.
Poochie is in doggie heaven, running across the fields of glistening grass and eternal sun shine. He was running his own race, on the trails.

*Based on true events
*Written in dedication to the love mutually shared by people, their pets and the trails


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The Filivest Endurance Weekend Run: mud, mud and more mud


round and round...

round and round…

So here I am ensconced in the warm confines of my bedroom for the whole day, taking lots of liquid, fruits and rest.  I’m not one you can herd off for one whole day but the body weakness and sore throat plus some chills told me it was time to take a break.

minutes before the gun start...Kuliters still in pictorial mode.

minutes before the gun start…Kuliters still in pictorial mode.

another angle, direk?

another angle, direk?

The week before was practically like this except that we had to go through a 3.1-KM trail loop from 6AM to 6PM.  Easy, eh?  Now  factor in some drizzles deteriorating into a typhoon-like shower by midday then we have one muddy testy trail to conquer over and over.  Now this one should have brought me down right away, instead of an hour of rain run last Saturday (with the Milo R2 Apex group), right?

During last Saturday's speed and agility tests at the University of Makati.

During last Saturday’s speed and agility tests at the University of Makati.

Anyway what helped us survive the ordeal was our strong support (the indefatigable team of Paz & Van) and the spirit of Team Kulit composed of Dave, Chinky, Sheila, Reylynne and me.  It was also the debut of our tantalizingly fluorescent team shirt (still comfy after going through the ravages of sweat, rain and heat).

Watch out world - Team Kulit is coming!

Watch out world – Team Kulit is coming!

K for Kulit

K for Kulit

So the first few loops were a breeze and I was bouncing around, totally enjoying my most-missed trails.  By the time I finished 21KMs (around 7 loops), it was just a little over 2 hours.  Now if I could do this for 12 hours – I could bank 120KMs!  That was wishful thinking, of course (cue in cousin Balki:  “Don’t be ridiculouuus”) for after a mild comforting spray from the sky at the start of KM 15, a full blown shower had begun.  Disappearing a little only to rain again and again on our parade.  By the time I finished a full marathon distance, it was way over 5 hours and the left knee had started complain from all the balancing along the mushy, slippery trail.

When the weather was still refreshing and sweet...

When the weather was still refreshing and sweet…

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Team power takes over…

I love to call it Molested Earth (in Filipino it’s more organic – nilapastanganang lupa)  for after so many rounds by the 70 or so runners, there was no more trail to speak off.  I had to search for some virgin, untrampled grassy areas to keep me going (except that they’re usually tilted).581829_10200461156360764_1584498988_n

the end is near...

the end is near…

The last 5 loops had me walking, avoiding mud puddles and newly-formed waterways.  Soon enough, one had no choice but to walk through mud, water and unstable earth.  On the final 2 loops, Team Kulit (all frustrated and ready to call it quits) banded together to lift our sagging spirits and had a most fun walk, peppered with stories circling on National Security and the gross domestic product.  After 10 hours, we finally hanged our muddied shoes and took our podium pose.  So it’s a total of 20 rounds or 62KMs in one Saturday.  Not bad for a weekend.

we are our shoes...

we are our shoes…

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outdoor shower, anyone?

the thrill of it all...

the thrill of it all…

Special thanks go out to the Filinvest Group (Ms. Rula Gongora) for the opportunity to test my patience and persistence in this Weekend Run at the burgeoning city of Filinvest.

Photography by Maripaz Buban and Van Denn Cruz


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My CM50 Story: Taking the Beast by the Horns


DSC04662

The New York City Marathon overzealous shopper…

What effing Mileage?

3 weeks before the CM50-mile trail race, I was still in the States, reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, replete with a 4-day blackout, fallen trees and long lines for gas (we back in the 70s?).  I came 2 weeks before quite conditioned for my Baltimore Marathon on the 3rd day and Bimblers Bluff 50-km trail run 10 days later.  From thereon in, I had done a couple of runs around my brother’s hilly New Jersey village but with the sudden onset of the early cold, the runs had dwindled from 2 a week to one to none.  The cold was just too much for me even at 10 in the morning even in my various permutations of cold running gears.  Plus, I think, I got too spoiled with my training team (the Voltes Team) in Marikina that in their absence, I had zero motivation to even put my trainers on and brave the cool breeze of Jersey.

Tina, Toto, Dennis & Cris...

Tina, Toto, Dennis & Cris…

I actually had more luck whenever I’m in Manhattan (3 days in a week) since I see more of my kindred running spirits traversing through NY’s streets and avenues at any given time of the day.  Plus, I like to scrimp on my train/bus fares (to feast on my fave Falafel & Ramen dishes) so I move up and down Manhattan by foot in my newly acquired Asics Cumulus 14 trainers (20% off at Paragon or ½ of its local price).  I usually have my backpack with me so maybe that constituted my training run with a hydration pack.  When I had the time, I was able to skirt the Hudson river track and even ran the Westborough bridge but it’s mostly a run/walk around Manhattan with shopping bags in tow.Final_CM50_Logo

So when I arrived in Manila 9 days before the race, I knew I had no recourse but to double my effort & mileage while still battling jetlag and acclimatization.  So for 5 weekdays, I joined the Voltes Team for our regular 13-km walk/run around the nearby villages.  On the last day before the race, I even joined the Aquatic group exercise with my Milo Apex group.  So as you can see, I had no real expectations with CM50 when I ventured into Clark, Pampanga that night.  I had even considered backing out but balked when I realized I had coughed up P1800 for this.  Now would you blame if I left my CM50 fate to the Dark Knight?  Indeed, ‘Bahala na si Batman’.

And then we were off…

with our ever supportive Team Boring family...

with our ever supportive Team Boring family…

it's the deep breathe before the plunge...

it’s the deep breathe before the plunge…

this is it....

this is it, pancit….

At 1 am, the Clark Parade ground was dark and desolate as 59 runners armed with headlamps and a lot of guts started out for the unexpected adventure ahead (yep, even for those who had done the Recon runs).  The terrain was sloping but slowly ascends until it enters a village shrouded by ginormous mango trees.  It soon enters a trail going down into the dark beyond.  My pace was quite brisk as I’m pulled along by a sea of lead packers.  I see Jael’s exposed upper torso glistening in the night.

Soon we were trudging through a bleak desert land.  I feel water and sand enter my newly minted Asics trail shoes but I keep going, following the parade of lights moving across the lahar wasteland (Sacobia River area).  Finally, I came upon the Team Boring caravan of Bong, CJ & Kokoy.  Bong & CJ had done the Recons so I set my compass off and just go where the tide takes me.  Just how they can find their way in the dark is beyond me.  There were some blinkers on one crucial area but for the most part of the race, you let instinct and feel guide you through, avoiding major barriers or traps which could easily lead one to unwanted accidents.  Or you could just follow the bobbing light hundreds of meters in front of you and pray he’s not as lost as you.  It was a short stop to Aid Station 1 (KM 7) as we took in whatever solid food they had to offer – sandwiches, triangular cheeses, choco drinks, etc.dennis wufei cumal

Near the end of our lahar excursion, any trace of the lead packers disappears and we find ourselves searching for that red neon paint to lead us through.  Around 12 of us were covering a wide area of the expansive desert hunting for the elusive marker.  When we finally found it, we took a left turn, entered a soil and lahar trail and soon traversed a sugarcane plantation.  We got lost once but managed to return on track after a few minutes.  Soon it was the concrete stairs going up into more trails which featured some mean descents which required rapelling ropes.  Another river to conquer and more snaking trails going up and down.  And then we were on Aid Station 2 (KM 14).  The Achilles heel area was already chaffing so I put band aid strips on both feet before taking off.

Enduring the chaffing & bleeding up to KM14...

Enduring the chaffing & bleeding up to KM14…

Running in the Dark

entering the tunnel of no return...

entering the tunnel of no return…

The way was still dark but we can already make out the topography ahead.  Slight uphills which eased out when the river crossing came.  The current of the Pasig-Potrero river was ragingly strong so a rope was installed to keep us on our feet while slowly moving across.  So far the slopes were gentle, passing through cogon trails and two tunnels traversing the elevated SCTEX highway above.  Suddenly, it was one continuous plunge before going punishingly way up.  I’m imagining how we will be doing this on the way back.  Bong & Kokoy were paces ahead while CJ & I followed – the tandems would interchange every now and then but we still managed to regroup while resting and recovering.  We finally found our oasis in Aid Station 3 (KM 23) but with the endless uphills ahead, we knew it was going be difficult.  It was around 7:15 am (or 6:15 since we started) when we replenished and got our wits together.  Our initial aim of making it to the peak in 7 hours was definitely out of reach.  In here, we took a longer break and found what I knew would save me on this race – new socks which covered the Achilles heel area.  The bleeding wound easily took in the soft cushioning of my Under Armour black socks.

and up we go...

here we go, guys…

If you noticed I have not complained of any tiredness or fatigue at this point.  It’s because any adjective before KM23 would just be superseded by the torture that lies ahead of us.  The sun had already blazed out early so we saw the endless ascents we were getting into.  By ascent, I mean 45 degrees and beyond.  Take a look at Simon Sandoval’s graph for better appreciation.

Simon Sandoval

do you see what I see?

Up & Up we go…

So there we were – climbing up one treacherously high slope then easing out a bit before taking on a more steep one.  The cycle kept repeating like some crazy spinning 45 vinyl record one is wont to take minor stops in between.  I would have stayed on a little longer but my convoy was already moving even before the breathing had normalized.  The matter with a continuous ascending road is that it slowly but continuously zaps one’s energy and quadriceps muscles that by the time you reached the highest peak, you don’t know if you’ll have the energy to go down.  Unless, you decide to free fall…

just like one endless nightmare...

just like one endless nightmare…

still 52 kms. to go but it was feat worth a picture...

still 52 kms. to go but there’s always time to preen & grin…

Well, it’s still not the peak yet at Aid Station 4 (KM 30) but one feels like he’s climb a mountain too many already.  We took in more solids and liquids the station has to offer before going down the Miyamit Falls, a colossal monument of solid rock from which fresh water rushed down to feed the cool pool below.  Before I could take off my belt bag, I had plunged right in to feel my weary body refreshed and strengthened.  It was a soothing feeling before realizing I had taken my celphone along for a swim.

sweet and short swim with bad Bong...

sweet and short swim with bad Bong…

good bye paradise...hello uphills

good bye paradise…hello uphells

A brief rest and cool bath were all it took to bring us back to life.  We knew the ascent would be our final ordeal to the peak but surprisingly I felt renewed strength and vigor.  Plus the climb wasn’t as insane after KM23 since they only reveal themselves little by little without overwhelming the weary runner.  And the cushioning feel of soft trail on my feet kept Kokoy and us assaulting the last few kilometers into the peak.  And the views kept getting better as the elevation rose – giant fern canopies, banana plantations, old growth trees and unusual floras only found in the higher areas.  The weather was a bit cool already but it just got better with the soft trickle of rain caressing our sunworn faces.  Until the fog came.

this is how high we've gone...so far.

this is how high we’ve gone…so far.

By this time, the trail had narrowed down though not treacherously, and one has awesome views of the verdant high mountains and lahar landscape on both sides.  The fog was slowly enveloping us and the cold was starting to creep in but I kept telling me self that I had gone through this in Connecticut so I was going to enjoy this.  I felt I was scaling the walls of some Irish coastline cliff.  It was that spectacular.  We finally reached the PEAK with Boringer MarkFer & Isko Lapira welcoming us like returning heroes.  We took in whatever supplement they can offer and let the feat sink in our minds for a few minutes.  Until we realized we have only 8 hours 50 minutes to reach the finish line.aldean p

The mad dash down…

At the start of this race, I’ve drilled in my little mind that the time going up should be shorter than the time descending since I would already be fatigued going down.  So at this time, thoughts of not making it to the finish within the 18-hour cut off time had swirled and swayed in my head.

“We’ll never make it….”  Remember that pessimistic lilliput Glum in the Gulliver’s Travel cartoon…”we’re doomed”

But my partner Kokoy had no time for my BS (though I never articulated it to him).  So we kept descending like there’s no tomorrow.  Behind us, Bong (making alalay with his knees) and CJ trying to catch up.  Fortunately, Koy was a master of the downhill run (a skill I’ve first loved since hitting the trails while also making alalay with the knees) and I was just happy to tag along.  Yes, there were the uphills still but with enough power walking we were able to burn the miles.  At certain points, I had to tell Koy to make alalay while I recovered but encouraged him to dash when the power had returned.  We had to get to the mother ship and leave Earth before the asteroid hits us to smithereens.

After reaching AS4, I somehow felt we were out of the rabbit hole.  Even with still some minor ascents, the way to the next aid station was simply a breeze (that is if you compare them to what we had gone through).  When torture is repeated for a certain period, the pain becomes negligible.  That’s the only explanation that comes to mind.  Since everything had become a blur of concrete, earth, rocks, pebbles and grass.  And Kokoy’s unstained calves as we made the final descent.

Tick, tock, tick, tock…

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what the *@%^#, RD Jon!

running atom

brutal beauty (as inspired by Daphne Codilla’s account)

By the time we reached AS3, we had lost CJ with only Bong diligently following us from the back.   Soon he recovered nicely and it was a trio conquering lahar plains, river crossings and steep cliffs.  It’s when sunlight unveils the true extent and breadth of the course that you curse the RD (Thank you, Atty. Jon Lacanlale) for leading you through one of the most mind boggling and difficult route in your life.  The line, “Did we really take on this efffing route?” was uttered more than twice.  And you thank the heavens that finally it’s the homestretch.

One can also appreciate the small markers along the wide landscape of rocks, lahar and water even from a distance.  And so we used it to guide us through the barren wasteland which surely looked more unattainable and challenging than it was in the darkness.  But you put your mind to it – and take on the same challenges you’ve prevailed upon on the way up – the shifting lahar sands, the randomly strew stones, the raging river and the steep hills.  There were times when we had to slow down to look for the markers for some hundred meters and wonder if we ever took on this or that route.  But it soon came to view and our apprehensions dissipated.  To get lost at the final leg with the clock ticking fast is just what we didn’t need at this time of the race.  We reached AS1 (manned by Team Ungas) with barely 1:45 to expend but we didn’t want to take our chances, with the waning daylight upon us.

entering Sapang Uwak (KM 7)...

entering Sapang Uwak (KM 7)…

run

the final push along lahar country…

Heaven is closer…

joseph Patrich Bonaobra

oh marker, oh marker, where art thou?

It was one crucial decision we took at this point since the last 7 kilometers wasn’t that close after all.  It was in fact a long arduous way passing through the endless laharland.  I then realized that this was the same entry way we had used when I did my Pinatubo 50km trail run in 2010.  At this time it was four of us again but with Chips Dayrit for the final push.  We were praying for CJ to be just a few leagues away for he was the guy who trained hardest for this race (in fact, he was just a few minutes away after answering nature’s call).  Dusk had set in when we finally found the exit from the lahar channel.  We were imagining and hoping that the runners behind us won’t have the difficulty of finding the markers in total darkness.

darkness falls across the land...

darkness falls across the land…

At this time, we knew we had nailed this little devil.  We went up some trails into the asphalt road by the village and entered the Clark complex.  We were already wondering what we would be doing the next day – perhaps, pamper ourselves and take the much needed rest.  Me – I was just longing for my Vanilla ice cream topped with fresh strawberries I’ve been imagining throughout this battle.  After what felt like eternity (again, “Did we really pass this way?”), the few lights of the parade grounds came into view and we were rushing like marauding pirates into the finish line.  I’ve been twirling my trekking pole for some time now so I had mastered it while checking in at 17:12:49, no. 16 out of 32 finishers from a group which started at 59.

17 hours & 12 seconds after...

Define exuberance…

too wasted for the medal presentation...

too wasted for the medal presentation…

finishers all:  mar, bong, chips, toto, kokoy & mccoy (60km 2nd placer) with RD Jon...

finishers all: mar, bong, chips, toto, kokoy & mccoy (60km 2nd placer) with RD Jon…

Now lemme have that Vanilla ice cream, please.

The memorable and awe inspiring photographs are courtesy of RD/Atty. Jon Lacanlale, Simon Sandoval, Joseph Patrich Bonaobra, Glairold Racella, Dennis Wufei Cumal, city watch Phl, Carmeli Ortega, Team Ungas, Managan Ta Bai, Aldean Philip Lim, Running Atom, CJ Paras & the Voltes Team.


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The Merrell Adventure Race: it’s a mud, mud world


Coming off from my triumphant King of the Mountain 100KM race one week later, I  was running with the swagger of a battle-worn warrior along Timberland’s snaking muddy trails.  Welcome to the Merrell Adventure 21KM race, I told my myself under a labored breath.  It had rained the day before (June 3) and though some of the trails in KOTM were wet and slippery, the effort to keep moving without slipping or sliding was just too much to maintain that the minutes kept ticking without me covering that much kilometer.

 

the orange cavalier of the House of Mudjoy…

I started 3 minutes late so the goal to outrun the tail enders was obstacle enough along a thin, sinewy trail already mashed and molested by the lead packers.  The trick is to run on the sidelines (provided they are still flat and not too inclined) where most of the vegetation had only been slightly trampled.  After a few minutes of trying to dodge the muddy, watery trails, one eventually gives up and embraces the earth in all its form (packed, loose, watery or sticky).

 

clear as mud…

the long, arduous trek up…

How many times I slipped and slid and planted my behind on mother earth or outmaneuvered a fall by tilting my right arm was beyond me (suddenly, I missed my trekking pole).  Suffice to say that my butt and right arm/shoulder were sore days after.  Most difficult was when I had to ascend a slippery slope that I had to move on all fours, grappling on whatever the trail has to offer – a sliver of cogon, a loose bamboo trunk or a jutting rock.  Yep, I was that bad.  Well, so were the others.  I even found some 10KMers on my 2nd loop.

the river wild…

 

Perhaps, the real highlight of this race was the circuit of river trails one has to move through, jumping and skipping from one boulder to the next and moving into waterfalls and shallow fords.  Some brave runners finally succumbed to the river’s allure and dove right in and traced the waters going back into the trail.  This was the part I enjoyed the most since the rushing waters cooled my already fatigued & dehydrated body and cleansed my caked shoes (Lady Gaga would have loved it) so they can still grasp on the muddy earth.  And start accumulating new mud again until I’m 4 inches taller.

 

still chugging on…at the final leg.

On the way to the finish line, one still needs to pass through what one would easily mistake for a pig pen.  You go through a lake of brown water, contorting your tired body through concrete tunnels and low-roped obstacles your face can easily end up swimming on the muddy pool.  Of course, I enjoyed that part because by this time I was taking in the whole muddy, murky experience, just the way we did it when I was a kid, 40 years later.

 

yes, I love, love being a pig…

For the 21KM runners, one had to go through the same loop again (slippery trails, giant boulders, more mud and rains, anyone?) before finally crossing into the finish.  The 2nd time around, given a more fatigued runner, mushier/muddier trails and (surprise!) fresh rains from above, was nothing short of moving along a sea of molasses, resembling some Tarantino movie scene done in slo-mo.   At this time you just want to end the whole spectacle and wash off/shower/clean yourself but there were more uphills to conquer.

 

men in brown…

over sideways and under…on a mudgic muddy ride…

4:26 later, I finally crossed the finish line – grimy and dripping and smiling, proudly displaying my battle scars of the day.  Now, this was one great fun adventure I’ve ever had in recent years.  Perhaps, I’ve forgotten how to be a kid again and the feeling of freedom and calm and awe came surging in like some electric current after a power outtage.

 

I’m mud about you…

2 hours later, I was scrubbed cleaned and smelling sweet, garbed in my clinic gown and treating a patient.  Back to reality, Toto, I say.  Suddenly, I was longing for mud…and all the fun the goes with it.

With trail idol Che…

Photos are courtesy of Ms. Cheryl Bihag (she who had scaled Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina), Mr. Thumbie Remigio (race organizer) & Ms. Ella Dator Perez


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Nature’s Trail Discovery Run


Last Sunday, I had the privilege of joining a bloggers’ preview of this year’s Nature’s Trail Discovery Run.  Tanay, Rizal is aiming to be the trail running capital of the Philippines so this is the 2nd in a trilogy of trail races in 2012 in this still pristine town.  The first one was in February (Love a Tree) and the 3rdoffering will be on Sept. 2, each covering a different 21KM route as the town has lots of interesting trails passing through caves, waterfalls and scenic mountainous regions.  The Nature’s Trail Discovery Run will take place on May 27 (Sunday) with categories both for 21KM & 10KM.

besides snagging this medal, 21KM runners may also win 3 Norphl trail shoes…

and off we go!

cave entrance…

Around 16 bloggers reached San Andres, Tanay by 7 am to trace at least parts of the 21KM route.  The hills around were still enveloped in fog as we ran across rivers and rice fields culminating in an underground cave at the mouth of the river.  After a kilometer of relatively flat terrain, the trail started to ascend without letting up.  I just had to concentrate on where my footing lands as I was getting aware of the shrinking lowlands.  I’m imagining the lead pack jockeying for positions in what seemed like a strip of cleared cogon tail come race day.

captivating views on the way up…

finally, on top…

going down with running atom…

Whew, we soon reached the summit of Mt. Bangkaan and waited for the rest of the contingent to park for our customary picture taking.  Going down was way faster especially if one is tailing the race director Alvin who was lithe and nimble.  Now, that’s what I aim to be if I’m going to take this trail running seriously.  We refilled our supplies before checking out another interesting part of the race.  We crossed a river, jumping from rock to rock in the hope of avoiding any moisture entering our trail shoes until we realized that we would be stepping on muddy/watery paths soon enough.  Oh well.

one yummy break..

roosting by the rooster…

A slight ascent into Mt. Anito soon revealed a gushing waterfalls as we reveled in its wondrous beauty.  Minutes later, everyone was enjoying its showers and posing for memorable shots courtesy of Jojo Paulino.  It was indeed one refreshing respite from the punishing sun.  We would have stayed longer but duty calls that we have more trails to conquer.  Though, this time it was less challenging, the route passed through grass-lined hills before finally descending back to the river into our waiting brunch.

Tanay high!

the boys of summer….

After resting, we headed into the Tanay Adventure Camp (a kilometer from Sierra Madre Hotel, the finish line of my first ultrarun, the PAU 50KM Tanay race) where we swam in their newly-constructed pool and continued with our eating binge into the afternoon.  It was indeed one memorable day with the PIMCO people.  Thanks to Jared (Mr. Supladong Irish runner) for leading the group and arranging the logistics.

down time…

The great photos are courtesy of Jojo Paulino and Ed Escueta.