Mount Ugo Trail Marathon: My First Trail Journey

Journey to the wilderness….
In the wilderness, everything is beyond your powers….
When you’re powerless, his loving care manifests at its best…


I am a certified OC! I race with everything in control. I set expectations. I set plans A to Z. I hate TRAIL RUNNING!

Jonel Mendoza, a friend – race director since the time I started running is a certified PUSHER! Back in the 2010, he would troll around our FB posts and recruit us to run ultramarathons. Well, here I am, a certified ultra addict and now a PUSHER also.  He is probably a billionaire now if this is a networking business, indeed an effective recruiter.

He failed in getting me to do trail run though.  Yes, Not until last March 31, Sunday – at the Mount Ugo Trail Marathon held in Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya — I made my debut to trail running….

Mount UGO Trail Marathon is one for the books, a race that I LOVE!

Allow me to share to you why it was Love at first race….


I started the race with no expectations at all. I went to the starting line with pure expectancy.

An expectancy on how the mountains will treat me.

Trail running sends us back to the mountains. They say going to the mountains is like coming home. How can it be home when each step makes you huff and puff with thin air, at 2150 meters above sea level? How can it be home when one false move and you can fall off the ravine? How can it be home when there’s no concrete road to step in – slippery rocks, eroding soils, muddy soil, grass hitting your face and making you itchy? How can it be home when there is no data service, worse not even phone signal (“I wanna post my selfie”)????   Those are my thoughts when I think of trail running before, moreso, a mountain run like Kayapa. It can’t be home! But then, I went and found out. I went home to the mountains and I got the connection that I was looking for.

A beautiful sunrise that greets us as we finish the first quarter of the race

A beautiful sunrise that greets us as we finish the first quarter of the race (Photo from Daryl)

An expectancy on how I would deal with being out of my comfort zone

I have always had a curiosity for the trails. But I am not sure if I can handle the interrupted terrain and the unknown elements. In this race, I was expecting it to be extremely cold but the scorching heat of the sun was punishing. An encounter with a group of cows and dogs looking and barking at me as I pass and there’s no one to call for help from. Carrying everything I need for hours. have to adjust to each challenge and gladly I dealt with it well.

Going out of the house to commute to Baguio is the first step outside of my comfort zone

Going out of the house to commute to Baguio is the first step outside of my comfort zone

An expectancy on how God will see me through

Trail running allowed me commune with God. I get reminded to praise and thank him every time I see his marvelous creations along the route. I get to trust him more every time the terrain becomes harder. I get to detach myself from everything and travel on the route with Him as my lone companion.



Each step of the marathon was hard – but fun. My body, mind and soul has to detach from everything it is attached to and be on guard.

The race allowed me to stay in the moment and enjoy each step. I talked to the plants and thanked them for the shade. I counted the rocks to find out where I should set my foot on. I paused to catch my breath and marvel at the beauty around me. I became at home with the mountains!

It was fearful for the most part not knowing what’s up next but I had no worries. Okay, maybe, I had too much emotional moments with the mountains that it took me 5 hour and 20 minutes reaching the peak. Haha

2150 Meters above Sea Level  - Mount Ugo.  Oh yeah, I climbed that!

2150 Meters above Sea Level – Mount Ugo. Oh yeah, I climbed that!

The last 1 mile to the peak was an emotional climb. I wanted to give up and just make a turnaround with 200 meters left. But I didn’t. It took forever but as I look at the mountain ranges, the clear sky, the clouds and as the cool wind soothes my tired body- the climb was worth all the dramas on the way up. As I lay down on the grass on top of the mountain, the race didn’t matter anymore. Whether I make it to the cut-off or not, I know I’ve beaten myself already. I took time to take pictures and recover. Gah, it will take some time before I reach this peak again.

Now, how to go down??? With that incline going up, going down will be hard for my non-existent trail running skills. I talked to the mountain, “please help me go down and not roll down.” I was so happy that I didn’t have to resort to using my four-wheel drive talent (going down on my butt with my hands behind and feet crawling down) for the whole 1 mile descent. The mountain was kind to me!

Photographer said. Okay, be pretty! Pretending I wasn't wasted at the peak!

Photographer said. Okay, be pretty! Pretending I wasn’t wasted at the peak!

I just kept going and going. I slipped twice! Then, I got lost somewhere in Domolpos. I hiked and crawled and just let loose…Knowing that I am already more than halfway in conquering my dream of finishing a trail race – a trail marathon – pumped me up! I raced the last 10 mile when the roads were wider and perhaps took my fastest pace as I go down.

I love KAYAPA and its People

I didn’t even know about the town not until Front Runner started to hold events here.



Sky is Clear!

Sky is Clear!


Purple Tree

Purple Tree: Only in Kayapa

Very nice locals.  The Councilor welcoming us during the Race briefing

Very nice locals. The Councilor welcoming us during the Race briefing

P15 per KIlo. Eat all you can Pansit. Boulevard Rice for P85....everything is fresh and very AFFORDABLE!

P15 per KIlo. Eat all you can Pansit. Boulevard Rice for P85….everything is fresh and very AFFORDABLE!

I love the Front Runner Race

It is my first FR race. Yes, Jonel and Con are good friends of mine but I think their races are too hard for me plus it’s mostly trail haha….It didn’t disappoint! It was hardcore but it was awesome

I love the accommodating staff and Con. From race kit claiming until the time I crossed the finish line, they were nice! I was surprised when Con immediately offered me water, got me hot arrozcaldo with egg and iced tea (with unlimited servings!) after I got my medal from Jonel.

Happy Students at the Race Briefing

Happy Students at the Race Briefing.  I had fun with CJ and Karlene, Dianne, Ronnel and Doc Marc.

I always get lost in the trails. Orienteering is a talent I don’t have. The race course was properly marked with pink ribbons. Everytime I feel like I am lost, the pink ribbon will appear in front of me to confirm I’m on the right track. There are times though I think I am lost cause it’s taking forever so I would just trace back to confirm there is no other way to go but the route I am traversing. There are permanent kilometer markers. So, if you are wearing a watch and you don’t see one after one kilometer that means you are lost. I have to admit though I still got lost twice but not too far cause I saw a pink ribbon from afar that confirms I am headed to the wrong direction. At the 19th + kilometer, after seeing Ronnel who told me that there’s a really steep climb coming, I tried to climb in the first hill I saw by holding on to a tree’s root and was shouting. “Guys, anyone there? Is this the peak?” Then, a runner appeared from the other side. So, Jonel was right, you still have to be smart even if the whole course is marked some can still get lost and do stupid things. I have yet to learn to be smart in tracing the route.

The aid stations were fully stocked with food and drinks and are spaced well to be able to refill when you need it.

As I entered the finish line, I shouted, “I made it!”

Jonel asked, “So, you are not afraid of the trails anymore?”

Yey! Finishers Medal.

Yey! Finishers Medal.

I finished my first trail race – a Marathon in 9:11.  I will still have that fear; I will always be afraid…but I am no longer intimidated.

The next time, I will carry with me fearful excitement as I go home to the mountains….. (Yay!)

The elevation profile.

The elevation profile. (from Epoy Poblete)

RACE GEARS: Compressport calf and quad sleeves, arm protector and triathlon short and bike socks. New Balance M1010V Minimus from Planet Sports, K-Swiss shorts, Chica Chiller Bandanas and Non-Slip Headbands, Run.PH Visor, 2 Simple Hydration Bottle, High Sierra Bike Trail Bag (that’s too heavy!)


RACE NUTRITION: 4 – 250ml Hydrococo Buco Juice (I hope they serve buco next race), 4 homemade Paleo Bars, 2 snickers, one cornick, 3 salt stick, rootbeer at the last 5K of the race, 1 Sponser Liquid Energy and 1 Activator


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