A bunch of Cebu Trail Runners (CTR) decided to join the Clark-Miyamit Falls Trail Ultramarathon 50 Miles (CM50) in Pampanga this November, and I thought I’d hop in as well. Dubbed as one of the most, if not the most, difficult 50-mile trail race in the Philippines, I figured having some fellow “bisdaks” preparing and running by your side (in principle, most of the time, because I usually train alone) will add extra boost and confidence on our part. In most of my races, especially trail, I would try to make some sort of reconnaissance to get a feel on running the route. Thus, I chose to join the Miyamit Falls Trail Marathon (MF42) last Oct 4 2015, which is part of the CM50 Trail Race Series. I inserted the event to become part of my training.
I rode the Shuttle’s Best van from Quezon City and arrived at the starting line in Alviera, Porac, Pampanga at around 2:30am. The race will start at 5:30am. During those three (3) hours, I made sure I get some sleep, visited the comfort room, claimed my race kit, prepared my gears and socialize with the other runners. I went there knowing nobody, but went home gaining many friends – the beauty of ultramarathons!
A short race briefing was given by the Race Director (RD) Atty. Jon Lacanlale, sighting that because of the typhoon that hit the area during the week, the course is expected to be slippery with some portion soak in rain for days, and that the cut-off time is extended by an hour (11 hours for 42km) because of it.
I started the race at a comfortable running pace, around 7:00/km, hydrating myself after a mile as I passed by the bridge crossing Sapang Uwak. My hydration plan is to drink water after every mile or 15 minutes, whichever comes first, and occasionally gulp some drinks familiar to me in the aid stations. I also brought about 100ml of Intra Juice, half is to be consumed at the peak (Km19), and half after climbing back from Miyamit Falls (Km30). I reached AS1-Km3 after 23mins and ate some watermelon there, before proceeding to climb the steep rocky portion.
An hour has passed since gun start and my stomach began to feel weird. We passed by some Aeta homes and I asked if they have a comfort room I can use (so stupid and ignorant of me to ask), and of course, they would reply they have none. They pointed me, instead, to an area across their homes with tall grasses. So before I reach AS2-Km7, I’d unload on the bushes. Good thing, I always bring wet wipes, dry tissue and alcohol as my sanitary kit when trail running. I’d gulp a GU Gel afterwards. My nutrition plan is to alternately take a GU Gel or eat a Nature Valley granola bar every hour, and occasionally eat some food familiar to me on aid stations.
But my stomach never got better. In fact, it grew more painful. I began to wonder if it’s the Jollibee spaghetti that I ate before traveling to Pampanga, or was it the lechon that I brought and shared dinner with my Tita Susan and cousin Allan in their Quezon City home where I stayed, or was it the snacks I took at the bus station. I was currently on a muddy and uphill section around Km10 when I can’t bear the pain anymore and had to unload for the second time. The problem is there’s no bushes to hide because this portion is a side-of-the-mountain trail, where the left side is cliff-like and the right side is wall-like. I looked behind and saw no runner near, so I quickly unload beside the trail and cleaned myself up. I’m beginning to feel weak at this point.
To make matters worse, about 500 meters before AS3-Km12, I’d discharge again, this time back in the bushes. I’d use up all of my sanitary kit and felt deficient while walking towards AS3. I asked the marshals if they have medicine, but unfortunately, they have none. I requested for some liniment instead and rubbed it on my stomach. I sat down and thought about discontinuing from the race after running 12 kilometers in 2hrs30mins. I felt sick and dehydrated already. I prayed and asked God to guide me in making my decision.
Then a fellow runner, Ian Pabatao, who’s running with Lex Cusay, gave me his Loperamide. I met both of them earlier because we rode the same shuttle van. I overtook them at about Km8 and informed them about the stomach pain I’m experiencing. I went ahead of them, but they reached AS3 first. When Ian saw me, he jokingly hinted that I did something back there in the bushes, to which I acknowledged and told him my circumstance. I took the medicine and continued resting while they proceeded. After about 20mins, I felt better and started to feel hungry. I drank Gatorade and ate some bread and Nutella (yes, Nutella!) from AS3. I sensed some energy back in my body, and before I knew it, I’m ready to go! The Lord sent Good Samaritans and His message to me was very clear, “Don’t quit! Go and finish the race!”.
The next seven (7) kilometers was an uphill assault on single track towards the peak, which is near the caldera of Mt. Pinatubo and the highest point of the route at 1,079mASL according to Garmin. The peak is the first turning point. There are no aid or water station along this portion, so I loaded up my three (3) water bottles before tackling the climb. I got my first ribbon after exactly four (4) hours, becoming the 74th runner to reach the peak.
Going back to AS3, I had my very first encounter with a snake in all my trail runs. A black snake, about the size of my thumb and about 3 feet long, crawled fast along the trails and into the bushes. I just observed it from a distance, then ran away from it. I made it back to AS3 (Km26) after 5hrs30mins. I ate another round of bread and Nutella and drank Mountain Dew before going down to the second turning point, which is the Miyamit Falls.