MTR42 Took My Breath Away

When I saw pictures of last year’s Mapawa Trail Run (MTR), I immediately put it on my bucket list. Although I read some not-so-encouraging reviews about the race, still I said to myself that I will go there to experience the beautiful mountain trail of Cagayan de Oro (CDO). Besides, they got new partners in R.O.X. and Salomon, and a new Technical Race Management Team, which promised upgrades and improvements.

Thanks to my wife Espie who gave me the go-signal to indulge in my longest ‘trail-venture’ so far. Thanks to Cebu Pacific Air, I got a ‘piso’ fare round trip flight. Thanks to Ms. Melanie and her TriBe teammates for sharing their room accommodation at Mapawa Nature Park. And thanks to the Aktib Store, I was able to register easily for my first ever trail marathon. No sweat! — which was exactly the opposite of my MTR42 experience.

MTR42 Race Route and Elevation Profile
MTR42 Race Route and Elevation Profile

Looking at the revised 42K route, which featured a total of about 1,466 meters elevation gain, and considering my on-and-off training, I targeted to finish the course within 8 hours. The race has two (2) cut-off time points, at Km22 within 6 hours, and at Km36 within 10 hours.

A short program with some fire dancing performance commenced before the race started at 4:08am based on my watch. After about 2km of running on concrete, we entered the trails. It was still dark early on, but I can already sense it’s gonna be a great event because I’m impressed with the ‘reflectorized’ trail markings situated about 5 to 10 meters apart to ensure nobody will ever get lost. Another thing that impressed me was the strategically situated marshals and ‘cowboys’, making sure everyone’s safe and accounted for.

One of the 'cowboys' along the route (photo by Studio 8).
One of the ‘cowboys’ along the route (photo by Studio 8).

We had our first river crossing at Km4 (I think there’s a total of five, I’m not sure I didn’t count) before embarking on the first major climb straight to AS3-Roger’s Hat. Upon reaching that spot, I’m already solved, I can go home! The view was spectacular and breathtaking, I think one can see the whole 22K route there. Too bad, I didn’t took a single picture, I’m too concentrated on finishing the race (it’s a joke, hahaha).

Breathtaking view from AS3 (Photo by Michael Oliver G. Malayao)
Breathtaking view from AS3 (Photo by Michael Oliver G. Malayao)

My strategy was fairly simple – walk the uphills, run all downhills, hydrate every 15mins and replenish calories every 1.5 hours, plus drink a jigger of Intra Juice every 10km.

Still feeling fresh early on, maybe +/- Km10. (Photo by Studio 8)
Still feeling fresh early on, maybe +/- Km10. (Photo by Studio 8)

The first half went well and I was able to reach Km22 in 3hrs45mins, more than 2hrs ahead of that junction’s cut-off time. The next part was a 4 km rocky uphill portion with very minimal trees along the way, leading to AS7-Koreano Overview. At this point, the sun was already flexing its muscles and I was beginning to pour water on my head, and even seek the aid of a wooden stick I utilized as a trekking pole to counter the exhaustion brought about by the intense heat of the sun.

Km25 on my way to AS7, feeling the heat of the sun (photo by Studio 8).
Km25 on my way to AS7, feeling the heat of the sun. (Photo by Studio 8)

Upon reaching Km26, I was about to tell the other runners to be careful because the table, where the food (lots of egg, banana and sweet potato) and hydration (Gatorade and water) were placed, was losing its balance. But no, I realized it was just me, I’m feeling dizzy! So I sat down and rested for about 30mins, along with a lot of runners. I figured I had to recharge because the next part was a 10km stretch of downhill then uphill going to AS10-Pigsang-an Creek, with no water stations in between. This segment was pointed out by the organizers as the most crucial part of the route.

Runners cooling off on a creek at +/- Km32. (Photo by Ira M. Bermudo)
Runners cooling off on a creek at +/- Km32. (Photo by Ira M. Bermudo)

I had a relatively easy time doing the downhill, but experienced the most suffering treading the steep uphill, which reached up to 30.1% grade according to Strava. Add to that, the sun was mercilessly sucking up fast all my energy, I had to do some walk-rest intervals just to reach the top. I also dipped in one of the rivers we crossed just to cool my body off.

When I saw the Km36 marker, I was relieved! Whew! That was like marching the path to Mordor. Time check: 6hrs55mins, I’m now safe from all the cut-off points.

Just when I thought all the uphills were done, I was wrong. The next 2km was actually a climb to the highest peak of the route at about 500 MASL. But instead of getting discouraged, I actually became more determined. The finish line is just 6 km away.

Beautiful view along the course. (Photo by Richard B. Anania)
Beautiful view along the course. (Photo by Richard B. Anania)

After 30 mins of climbing, I arrived at Km38 where I saw my fellow runner from Cebu, AJ Mercado, lying down under a tree. AS11-Transco-Bayantel purposely laid a big canvass for runners to lie down. I was tempted to take a nap for about 10mins before proceeding to the final 4 km.

As I entered the gates of Mapawa Nature Park, which meant 1.5 km more to go before the finish line, I emptied my vest and gave my remaining chocolate bars and a can of Century Tuna to the security guard on duty. And when I crossed the finish line after 8hrs25mins, I’m very happy to receive a very nice finisher’s medal and finisher’s shirt, and become one of the nine (9) 42km finishers from Cebu.

At the finish line, my two hands pointing up, giving praise to WHOM it's due. (Photo by Studio 8).
At the finish line, my two hands pointing up, giving praise to WHOM it’s due. (Photo by Studio 8)

I thank GOD and gave HIM all the glory for this achievement. HIS promise in Philippians 4:13 that ‘I can do all things through CHRIST who gives me strength’ was highlighted once again. That’s why I will never be afraid to face life’s challenges because I’m secured that GOD is on my side. As for the people behind MTR42, you did a great job, it certainly took my breath away and I wanna do it again next year!

MTR42 finishers from Cebu. (Photo by Boying Milan)
MTR42 finishers from Cebu. (Photo by Boying Milan)
My trail partner, Intra Juice, gave me a boost to get this very nice finisher's medal.
My trail partner, Intra Juice by Lifestyles, gave me a boost to get this very nice finisher’s medal.
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