The first is always the sweetest! I had fun; I really had great time running 50K (about 52k total distance) at The North Face 100 Ultramarathon in Baguio City. This post is quite long, I even had to cut it short and spare you some of my unnecessary musings. Here is my first journey into the world of TRAIL ultramarathon running….
We reached Baguio in the morning of May 2, Friday. The day was spent eating, resting and attending the race briefing.
After having my mandatory race gears checked and a visit to the portalet, I went inside and had a brief chat with other runners including a runner who flew from Italy for the race. Karlene and CJ were there. I am expecting we’ll have the same pacing based on our recent trail race so we agreed to pace each other.
We have the same choice of gears!- Simple Hydration Bottle, Compressport Calf Sleeves & Ultraspire Surge bag
At 4am, we took off together with 461 runners. But before we even reach the first kilometer, there was already a bottleneck. I couldn’t find Karlene and CJ anymore. I have no idea what the trail would be like so as advised by most of my friends I started slow at the first two kilometers then gained speed after that.
The trail becomes a single path after a sudden drop which can only be passed one by one. Maybe it took 10 minutes of waiting for our turn. I met Team Marupok and we traversed the first few kilometers together. I decided to stick with them. I have trained with them and I know they go at a pace on the trail that I can keep up with. It helps also as it was my first time to use the headlamp and I am having trouble with its bouncing so I couldn’t really see well. I just took their lead and followed to make sure I won’t trip on the protruding roots of those trees.
We were about 25 minutes into the race when we found a way to overtake some runners. I followed but I was left behind and got stucked behind one male runner. I keep trying to pass so I can stay with them but whenever I’d say ‘Passing’ the guy speeds up then slows down again. Well, so much for trying, I couldn’t find the Marupok guys anymore. I finally got away with the male runner and stayed in pace with another group of male runners.
It wasn’t as dark anymore so we were running at a pretty good pace. I paid attention to the trails as there are roots and rocks all over and it’s slippery from the rain last night. At this point I was able to fix my headlamp’s bouncing by tying it to my braided hair. I would trip or slip often but I was able to quickly regain balance. I wonder how the guys slip and trip on the trails without screaming! All I can hear is their shoes screeching through the soil, sometimes sending some dirt my way. For me, I think I cause everyone in our pace group some panic every time I’d slip with matching scream. Before we make a left, the marshal told us it’s the road to Loakan already. The trail path at that time is a lot wider and the descent was just fine. I started to run faster and then…..then….found myself slipping down so I used my right hand to control myself from falling off the ravine. I ended up lying on the trails with my two legs hanging down on the edge. I thought that was it – not even 10K! I quickly stood up after seeing that I caught the attention of everyone around me. I was fine except for some bruises on my glutes and a right thumb that is starting to swell. The nail got pulled away a bit and was broken! Hay! I stood up and continued my run before I get them worrying. It sucks to be clumsy, really!
It was mostly cemented road from there, maybe, less than three kilometers until the first aid station-AS10. After some steep downhills on paved road, we reached Loakan airport, the only flat portion of the race. It felt so good running a little faster; but still worrying about my thumb which is starting to swell – I was hoping it’s not broken and that I don’t end up nursing a black dead thumb nail after the race. I don’t really like nail polish on my hands.
AS10 meant we are almost 10 kilometers into the race. I asked for a pain reliever to minimize the swelling. It took some time for the medics to understand what I am worrying about and give me the meds. My nails are dying!!! They took my name, phone number and address. But really, I’m not sure what the details are for, I just wanted to proceed with the race. But the day is just so great for me to complain. Thanks for the meds guys! After a while, it wasn’t painful anymore but it was still swollen.
The sun is already up and the weather was great. Now, for the scary part – it will be a steep downhill from here going to AS9 (the lowest point of the race). I didn’t stay long at the aid station. After a water refill, I got half banana and started to walk while eating a paleo bar and drinking my buco juice. It is mostly rolling wide dirt road from there. It’s not as slippery as the first trail. We were at the last few meters of ascent when Philip and Ugi passed me. Before the race, he told me to stick with him and Ugi. I shifted gear to keep them within an eyesight distance. And then the wide roads turned into a single downhill track which is what I fear most in the race. I can see the two flying fast from afar – no way I can. The slip a few minutes ago didn’t help; I have the please don’t let me die feeling! I just stayed behind a couple of guys. I’d make a signal ‘pass me if you want’ whenever the trail becomes wider but most of those behind decided to stick with our group.
I now understand the concern of Jael and Chito when I told them about the idea of joining TNF months ago. This is what they call ‘technical downhill’. I was just so glad I survived.
After passing the broccoli farm we went down further and then passed about 100 meters of flat lands and went up again into the trails. AS9 is so near! It was bliss to hear the sound of vehicles, that means we’re getting nearer to AS9 and there are no more downhills (at least until the peak).
I took one Richarge at the aid station, refilled my Simple Hydration bottles – one with Buco juice and the other one with water and added water to the bladder in my bag. I am not sure how steep the climb will be and how long it will take me. I was told most of the trails would be by the ridge but the start of ascent will be runnable.
It was runnable but since I was about at the mid-pack I had to stick with the pace of the runners I was with. I was fine with it as it’s not too slow. It will be a bottleneck in each of the bridge we crossed as they only let 10 runners pass at a time. After those narrow-slowly ascending trails, we reached the killer portion at the time the sun was directly on us. I was sharing the trail with a lot of runners and some would stop when there’s a shaded portion.
It was awesome to see so many girls in the race, meet new friends and finally meet some facebook friends face to face. We came across the lead runners who are already on their way back. As we ascend to the peak of Mt Cabuyao more runners are coming telling us its near. Amazing how some of them will just jump over my shoulders to go down. I’m the one getting scared but oh my, they are just fine!
We finally reached AS8. We are going to pass this twice so I just cooled down myself from the pail of water on the side and refilled my bottle. It was great to see Tita Maritess and learn that one of the runners I was pacing with is Beng, his son and Simon’s brother. I told her kaya pala malakas din, Miranda family.
From AS8, it goes up to Mt Sto Tomas. It is 3k of cemented and rocky roads going up. The ascent is like the terrain of the roads in Timberland but add to that we are in Baguio. I still feel good but it takes a lot of mental power to keep going. It was a bonus that when you look left or right, you will see the beauty of the mountain ranges and see those broccoli farm we passed by. It’s a breathtaking! (and literally the ascent is taking my breath away!)
They gave us one bottle of mountain dew which they said we should finish. No worries! I only have one 250ml buco juice left and one recharge so I’d need to take this.
As we reached the peak of Mt Sto. Tomas, I blurted, ang Ganda! After journeying through 28 k of uphElls and downhElls, the destination seems to be the most beautiful place ever!After some photo-ops at the peak, it’s time to head back. I feel so great overall. Nothing painful, no signs of tiredness yet. I knew I still got enough engine to go back. We have enough time until the cut-off but I promised myself I’ll have a good dinner on a plate while relaxing and sitting down in a good restaurant in Baguio – not on the trails anymore. I know I have to conquer my fear of the downhills and take it one step at a time.
Back in AS8, I asked for lugaw to ingest something hot in my system. I refilled all my hydration, had a chat with Blue of Altra (explaining my dead thumb nail concern which I doubt he understood) and went back into the trails together with Micmic Flores. I told him to go ahead if he wants to as I’d really be careful going down. We’re about seven hours+ into the race.
After a kilometer in the trails, there were about four guys running behind me. They decided to stick to my pace which pressured me not to go that slow. We were chatting throughout which took my focus away from the scary terrain. Micmic decided to go ahead after a while which left the four of us together.
After a while the terrain turned into a runnable downhill. I enjoyed this part most! I was cruising with Beng, Dennis and Christopher. Christopher went ahead; he wanted to cover more before his ITBS attacks. It was just me and two boys, Beng and Dennis then. We keep running until we reached a shaded area with a bench to rest on. I took out my remaining food at the back pocket and transferred to the front for easier access on the last 13k. The Sponser Gel on a toothpaste-like container have been my fuel in between stops as it is easy to access from the pockets of my bag. The two boys decided to rest some more so I asked permission to proceed. I passed a female runner. After a while, I heard there was someone behind me again so I started a convo. I thought I was the runner I passed, started talking to her until I realized it’s another girl. It will be me and Jaya from then on.
The nice thing about pacing with a female runner is that you can actually tell about girl stuff in one sentence and she can relate. Like my nail problem story I’ve told the guys I’ve been running with! We talked about everything from her racing goals to why we need to wear nail polish when trail running.
We were both excited to reach Kennon Road (AS9). Nats later on joined us and we met Chris again. We run when it’s runnable and walked faster when it’s not. Chris asked us to go ahead as his ITBS was hurting already. We finally reached AS9.
After refill and photo ops, we braced ourselves for the long ascent back to AS10.We got excited to tackle those uphills that we got lost and climbed about 100 steps of stairs instead of making a left down to a residential area. Thanks to the marshals who saw us from afar and called after us.
It was HOT!
We met a couple of guys sitting as we exit the residential area. Apparently, that will be the last shaded portion during those climb back. They offered us coke. Thank you! We started hiking up until we realized we haven’t really rested so we took advantage of the little shaded area we saw.
From this point, we can see Mt Sto Tomas. Awesome view! Majestic! And we actually was there an hour ago! Moments like this allow me to marvel not just at the creations, I marvel at the Creator.
I was saying my thanksgiving as we traverse back. It was a hard ascent! Perhaps the only way I was able to get up the mountain is to count step one to ten, breathe, smile, thank God and step one to ten again….
The other guys stayed behind and it was me, Jaya and Nats again. We finally got down to the flat portion which meant another few kilometers of climbing and it’s AS10. The marshals gave us ICE and I thought it was the best gift ever! I left the resting place ahead of everyone and Jaya followed; only a few ascents and we’re back to Camp John Hay. I saw two runners and stopped by to help them with their cramps. Good thing I had my salonpas and some spare salt stick caps. It took a few minutes to help them and Jaya caught up with me.
At the peak, the marshals shared their watermelons with us. Heaven! We climbed a few more and then it started going down and the roads became wider. We’re near AS10! They told us it’s only 6 kilometers to the finish line. I don’t have a garmin or a watch so I am not sure if it’s accurate but Jaya said it”s probably more than 6k. We knew we will finish before it gets dark!
We brisk walked through Loakan airport, crossed it and were on our way back to Camp John Hay. We caught up with a couple by the road. The rest was uneventful. The rest of the trails was runnable, the ascents and descents were hard but after going through Mt. Sto. Tomas and Cabuyao, it felt like the best trail terrain to run on ever!
I saw Blue again as we exited the road of Camp John Hay. He congratulated me and said it was just a kilometer away. I can’t believe it! You know the feeling where you just want to jump and jump to rejoice. That’s how I felt. We went inside the trails and had a few more uphills. I just followed the TNF flags until I can hear the sound from the finish line.
Finisher Bib 5371. Official time 13:55 180/461starters….
Thanks for reading! I really remember each single thing that happens (and what did not) in my races.
THANKS FOR THE SUPPORT!
This is all for GOD’s Glory!
Thanks to everyone I have trained with for this race – on the trails – Jael, Chito, Ronnel, Rene, Sierra Mountaineers- Michi, VM & Jomar, Team Marupok; on the road – Wilnar, Chris, Bobby, Hector, Carlo! Thanks for your tips and the encouragement – Attorney Jon, Jonel, Majo, Compressport IN Team.
Again, thanks for the support – Hydrococo, Compressport, Adidas Body Care, Richarge (Royale), Empire Macaron for my bars, Urban Ashram, Crossfit MNL!
Thanks to the race organizers, to Neville and his team! The race marshals are the best. I told someone at the peak, you are our hero! (and that is not an exaggeration). The course is well-marked. I didn’t take that much food from the AS but water was overflowing so for me it was okay. Like the others, I was also expecting a finishers shirt but the explanation posted on TNF page replacing it with a memorabilia is acceptable for me. There will always be a room for improvement but you did a good job overall for the category that I joined.
Photos from Micmic Flores, Team Marupok, VM and Miranda family.
To everyone, my family and friends who prayed for me and wished me well in this race, thank you!
❤ ❤ ❤