Category Archives: Trail Running

My MF42 Story (Part 2 of 2): Km26 to Finish Line

Having pulled through with what seemed to be a DNF (Did Not Finish) situation for me in the first half of my MF42 2015, my heart was filled with thanksgiving when there’s no more trace of stomach pain from Km12 onwards. At this point, I still have 16 kilometers more to tread, starting with the downhill single track to Miyamit Falls, which is more or less two (2) kilometers from AS3. I figured I still have a chance of finishing below eight (8) hours, which is my original target for this race.

The descending path to Miyamit Falls was quite steep, narrow and slippery. These kind of terrain has been my Achilles’ heel in all my trail runs that it slows me down every time because I’m quite heavy, I don’t possess a good balance and have this fear of falling. But alas, my footwear is holding up my 87-kilogram frame quite well! I recently got a Salomon S-Lab Sense 3 Ultra SG and it proved that its deep lugs can withstand those steep, narrow and slippery trails despite my weight, giving me the confidence to run downhill with lesser worries. Also playing a big role in lessening my concerns on the mountains are my Ahon Gaiters, which really prevented those small pebbles, mud and dirt from entering my shoes all throughout. I got zero blisters when I’m done with the race.

Got my second ribbon at the second turning point (Km28) after 5hrs52mins as I stand in awe at the majestic Miyamit Falls. I’m blessed to witness the twin falls in its full force, the current rushing with gusto, probably because of the non-stop rain brought about by the typhoon that hit the area during the week. The cold water was so inviting that I’d dipped myself and relax for a while, spending about 15 minutes refreshing myself as I prepared for the final stretch. It’s also a plus that a few of the trail masters – Ahon head honchos Atty. Aldean Lim and Ronald Declarador, and Ms. Majo Liao, were marshaling at Km28-Miyamit Falls. I didn’t let the chance slip away without taking pictures with them!

Three-fie at Miyamit Falls with the Ahon head honchos, Ronald & Aldean. (Photo by Ronald Declarador)
Three-fie at Miyamit Falls with the Ahon head honchos, Ronald & Aldean. (Photo by Ronald Declarador)

The most difficult part of the route, for me, was actually the uphill back to AS3 from the falls. It’s like you suddenly become very lazy after an invigorating bath on the waterfalls. It took me about 30 minutes to climb back to AS3, where I had another round of bread and Nutella, haha!

One of the fastest Filipina trail runners, Ms. Majo Liao.
One of the fastest Filipina trail runners, Ms. Majo Liao.

It was mostly downhill from thereon, including a slippery portion somewhere between AS2 and AS1, where some rocks are covered with moss. My legs and knees felt comfortable in running the downhills, which surprised me because I usually felt pain and fatigue on my previous races if the last portion is downhill. Maybe I would credit it to the strengthening exercises I’ve done religiously at least once a week for my core, hips and legs.

Arriving back at AS1 (Km39) after 7hrs50mins, I knew my sub-8hrs dream is not anymore achievable. But that’s ok, I would be able to finish the race when hours earlier I was considering DNF. Whereas I was running comfortably to complete this marathon, I underestimated that there’s still this one (1) kilometer stretch of uphill towards the Alviera grounds and into the finish line. The weather also became very hot at this point. It seemed like the longest kilometer as I power hiked this segment while pouring water on my head every now and then.

Finally, I crossed the finish line with the RD congratulating me and announcing my racebib number 4019! As of this writing, I’m still awaiting for the official results to be posted but as per my GPS watch, Based on official results, I completed the course after 8hrs20mins2secs, 50th overall (43rd male) out of 91 finishers within the cutoff time. As recorded by Garmin, I ran 42km with 2,200m elevation gain. It was another humbling and learning experience for me, and I achieved my purpose – which is to acclimatize with the route. I’m grateful to our Lord for giving me the opportunity to see His handwork – the beautiful mountains and waterfalls – and to meet new friends! In fact, some of the veteran trail ultramararathon runners like Mark Tibo-oc and Ian gave me a lot of CM50 pointers after the race. I’ll keep in mind guys everything that you’ve said. Thank you very much and see you in November!

My MF42 memorabilia.
My MF42 memorabilia.

My congratulations to Atty. Jon for a successful event, and my gratitude and salute to all the marshals, volunteers and armed men on duty for keeping us safe, well fed (Nutella!) and hydrated all throughout the event. This is one trail marathon I would surely recommend to all my running friends in Cebu!

Can I just stay here and not finish the race? (Photo by Ronald Declarador)
Can I just stay here and not finish the race? (Photo by Ronald Declarador)

My MF42 Story (Part 1 of 2): Km0 to Km26

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!

That mandatory(?) gears picture before every race.
That mandatory(?) gears picture before every race.

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.

MF42 runners at the starting line. (Photo grabbed from CM50 FB page)
MF42 runners at the starting line. (Photo grabbed from CM Trail Races FB page)

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.

The steep rocky uphill portion after AS1. (Photo grabbed from CM Trail Races FB page)
The steep rocky uphill portion after AS1. (Photo grabbed from CM Trail Races FB page)

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.

MF42 Aid Station 3. See those Nutella? (Photo by CJ Paran)
MF42 Aid Station 3. See those Nutella? (Photo by CJ Paran)

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 Good Samaritans, Ian Pabatao and Lex Cusay, at Miyamit Falls. (Photo by Lex Cusay)
The Good Samaritans, Ian Pabatao and Lex Cusay, at Miyamit Falls. (Photo by Lex Cusay)

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.

Please click here for the continuation of my MF42 story…

My Cebu50 (Part 2 of 2): An Unfinished Story

Group picture minutes before the gunstart.
Group picture minutes before the gunstart. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)

It was still dark and cold when the race started at 4:15am in Brgy. Taptap Gym, the starting line of the 2nd Cebu50 Trail Ultramarathon 2015, the brainchild of organizer Blue Tradio. From the final list of participants, 54 runners will try to negotiate the 18km route, 33 of which are crazy enough to repeat it 2 more times afterwards (called the aspirant category) bringing the total distance to 54km overall with a cut-off time of 14 hours.

Goofing around during the race briefing. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)
Goofing around during the race briefing. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)

One loop has three (3) major climbs with a total elevation gain of +/- 1,067 meters (according to Garmin), so multiplied by 3 and you get a whooping total elevation gain of +/- 3,201 meters! The first major climb leads to Kampar Peak, the highest point of the route at +/- 717 mASL. When I had the chance to recon the route, I was just amazed by the beautiful green mountain scenery. For a while, it felt like I’m in the Garden of Eden for “…out of the ground the LORD GOD caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight…”. That’s why I prefer the trail nowadays because I get to see HIS natural creation!

The loop route and elevation profile. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)
The loop route and elevation profile. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)

First Loop

The first 4km was on concrete/asphalt descent to Brgy. Tagbao. I kept a relaxed running pace on this part. Actually, that’s my plan for this event – to be relaxed, hydrate well, eat at least 100 calories of food per hour, rest and drink two (2) jiggers of Intra Juice every loop. Oh wait, where’s my Intra?!? Oh no!!! I left my energy-boosting drink at home!!! Waaahhh!!!

Kampar Peak as background, during our recon run.
Kampar Peak as background, during our recon run.

Realizing I forgot a piece of me, I tried to be calm and composed and move forward. Besides, I’m optimistic! The first (which peaks at Km 6.5, Kampar Peak) and second (peak at Km 11, on the way up to CREMDEC) climbs went well, but the third climb (peak at Km 17.5, on the way up to Brgy. Taptap Gym) was somewhat difficult. Indeed, what last year’s Cebu50 3rd placer Boying Milan said that “the real race will start on the third climb” was true!

When I reached Brgy. Taptap Gym, the organizer told me I’m in the Top 10. I clocked in 3hrs36mins for the first loop. Wait. 3hrs36mins?!? From my estimates, relax would have meant at least 4+ hours per loop! That means I have been running a little faster and spent more energy than I originally would have wanted! And I have no Intra Juice!

Instead of getting excited, I got a little bit worried. As I ate the yummy egg sandwich that my wife Espie prepared for me, I figured I will spend more time resting to regain back some energy. I parked myself for 15 minutes before embarking on the second loop.

Second Loop

The clouds started to darken at around 8:30am and I’m anticipating it will rain up there. At the same time, I’m a bit worried because I haven’t trained for slippery and muddy conditions. The rain started pouring just when I’m dealing with the steep uphill to Kampar Peak. My treads started to slip so I also used my hands to get to the top. It was a relief when I reached the apex. Then I realized the downhill was steeper and muddier. Oh well, hands and feet again. Good thing, only Vee Abellana was there to witness my transformation to a four-legged creature!

At this point, I was surprised to see eventual women’s champion Jade Abellana still on top of Kampar Peak. Later on she would passed by me and she told me they got lost. Moments later, it was my turn to get lost. After crossing the second creek, instead of turning left, I went the other way. I think I ran about 500 meters already when I became conscious that the place is not familiar. So I turned around and was thankful for some residents who pointed me back to the road to CREMDEC.

Second loop, about Km
Second loop, Km 30, muddy feet and wet all over. (Photo by JD Dorado)

It was on the third climb that fatigue and hunger started to creep in. My stomach just wanted to be filled because it’s about lunchtime already. It took me 1.5 hours to walk back up to the starting line, which includes getting lost on the trail again and 3 instances of sitting down on the grassland to rest.

Second loop, Km 34, still wearing a smile halfway thru the third major climb. (Photo by Marvin Lui Canada)
Second loop, Km 34, still wearing a smile halfway thru the third major climb. (Photo by Marvin Lui Canada)

I completed the second loop in 5hrs11mins, a far cry from my first one. My total time is now 9hrs2mins, but I really don’t care much at this point, I just wanted to devour the lumpia, pansit, longaniza, egg and rice that the organizer prepared for lunch! I’m starving!

Third and Final Loop

After eating lunch and resting for about 20 minutes, I started my final journey. Doing some calculations, I figured I can finish the race within the cut-off time of 14 hours. My pace has slowed down considerably, even on the downhills. I also took some time to rest on every aid station and after every major climb. Whereas the second loop was at raining and windy conditions, the third loop was the opposite – the sun shone bright, the trails have somehow dried up, and it’s getting hotter now! But it’s alright with me, this is what I trained for. I’m just taking my time, relaxed and confident to finish this on time.

The view at the top. Can you see me? I'm in the middle of the cornfield. (Photo by Richard Anania)
Third loop, Km 42. The view at the top. Can you see me? I’m in the middle of the cornfield. Seriously. (Photo by Richard Anania)

At the aid station before the climb to CREMDEC, I caught up with Vee again. Then, a marshall came and informed us that we will not be trudging the third major climb anymore for safety reasons. He said that it’s getting dark already on that valley and it’s not safe anymore for us who are still on the course. Instead, we were instructed to proceed directly to the finish line after the second climb. That means we’ll be cutting the distance from 54km to 48+km. Frankly, I’m disappointed by the order because it would signify that we never really finished the whole course. Besides, there’s still time. At that point, there’s about 2.5 hours left before the cutoff. But we have to abide by the organizer. I believe it’s for our own good and it’s a good call. Vee and I ran together on that last stretch and finished the shortened course in 12hrs22mins6secs.

At the finish line, just before we ran our additional 5+ km. (Photo by John Bosco Gonzales)
At the finish line, checking if we are still allowed to complete our third loop. (Photo by John Bosco Gonzales)

The Extra 5+ Kilometers

As soon as we got the disappointing (well, at least for me) news from the marshall, Vee was more than determined to finish the distance because this was his first ultramarathon race. He convinced me to run the extra 5+ kilometers in another route so that we can complete the 54km. It sounded crazy but a good idea to me! And so we ran from Brgy. Taptap Gym to the Transcentral Highway Km23 marker (which became our unofficial highest peak at +/- 814 mASL) and back, and accomplished our objective unofficially at 13hrs20mins25secs.

With Vee Abellana at the Transcentral Highway Km23 marker.
With Vee Abellana at the Transcentral Highway Km23 marker.

The organizer was kind enough to hand us the finisher’s medal and include all those who were diverted to the shortened route in the official list of finishers. But for me, I consider this as an unfinished business. I’m grateful for the opportunity and for the humbling experience. And my utmost admiration to the 5 runners who completely journeyed all 3 loops.

Two important things I’ve learned. First is that being optimistic is also being realistic. This was shared by one of my colleagues at work, citing the example why cars, although brand new and in superb condition, will always have a spare tire with it. In every endeavor, a Plan B and Plan C should always come in handy just in case Plan A doesn’t work out.

Second and more significant for me is that in situations when everything we planned doesn’t seem to fall into its rightful places, we can never be completely discouraged. Instead, we will put our hope and lean more to our CREATOR who promised that “…those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint“. As early as now, I would love to give Cebu50 another shot next year. Hopefully, I’ll be better prepared and finish the whole course when that time comes. Until then, I’ll continue enjoying the beauty of the hills, the mountains and the trails.

Cebu50 2015 finisher's medal.
Cebu50 2015 finisher’s medal.
Aspirant Category (3 loops) official male finishers list. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)
Aspirant Category (3 loops) official male finishers list. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)
10694219_931696856871212_2022531815319758094_o
Aspirant Category (3 loops) official female finishers list. (Photo grabbed from Cebu50 FB page)

(Holy Bible verse references: Genesis 2:9, Isaiah 40:31)