January 10, 2016
A couple of weeks into the new year, I was able to complete my first trail run. It wasn’t easy. At all. but I endured and was able to finish without any major injuries.
I’ve already mentioned previously about my interest in joining a trail run, and, as if the universe agreed with my curiosity, a friend linked me to a schedule of trail running events.
Once I saw a 25km Tarak Ridge Run sponsored by Conquer Outdoor Equipment, I knew that it would be a good place to start.
This was because:
1) This was the first of a series of trail runs by Conquer, so if ever I enjoy the event, I can get motivated to join the next ones.
2) The distance of 25km is just right. I’ve already done a few 21km road races and I think a few more kms of trail should be doable.
3) I have already climbed Tarak Ridge before so I am a bit familiar with the course and terrain.
So after a few moments of reflection, I said my prayers and registered! (On the last day of registration, no less)
With no trails near my vicinity, I had to make do with the road. My training consisted of road runs with the occasional dodging of pedestrians and jumping on and off the sidewalks. I guess climbing mountains now and then also helped with my training.
A week before the run I climatized (nucks, big word) my body to the long distance by running 21km at the Color Manila Carnival.
I left for Brgy. Alas-asin the night before the run. On the bus, I met fellow runners and climbers. Arriving extra early meant time to sleep and so I set up a little place for myself in the covered court of Alas-asin Elementary School, the start and finish point of the race.
Nervousness hit me about an hour before the race. My new friend told me not to worry and to just listen to my body. My strategy was to just hike the uphills and run the downhills. According to my friend who was an experienced trail runner, this was what most of the runners will do.
After claiming my race kit, and securing my gear, we had a quick orientation about the race course and the rules.
Finally, the race started. It was still dark so I stuck with runners with headlamps. As the sun started to show, the other runners started their jog up the slopes of Mt. Mariveles. Very quickly, the large group of 140+ runners started to break off into chunks.
Since the race was taking a traverse loop, I was unfamiliar with the ascent. The first part was identical to the traditional trail of Tarak Ridge. This was until it opened up to huge rocks and streams that signaled our nearing Paniquian Falls.
This was also my favorite part as I hopped along boulders and overtook the more careful runners. I think it was my blatant disregard for my safety that made me able to skip past the group ahead of me.
Upon reaching Paniquian Falls, there was a mandatory picture-taking and some marshalls recorded our bib numbers. It was also an aid station where they had food and some drinks for the runners. I saw chocolate milk being offered and immediately gulped it down.
My hydration pack was still relatively full so I didn’t refill it. Leaving the aid station, I was pleasantly surprised to find our guide from the previous climb as a marshall. We said hi to each other and he pointed the way to the hardest part of the route.
This was where I doubted my ability to finish the race. The route connecting Paniquian Falls to the summit was a non-stop assault of boulders, loose rocks, roots and dirt. There were parts of the climb where I was almost face-to-face with the ground. Why do the things we love hurt us so?
As I can remember, there wasn’t any part of the climb that was flat. I was being punished and I had no choice but to continue what I started. After crying internally while ascending, I emerged from the forest canopy and saw the famous world-tree from afar. Just a little bit more and I’ll reach the highest point of the course! The gust of cool air was also very welcoming and gave me a little burst of energy.
Finally, I reached the summit with shaky legs. There, the marshalls recorded my bib number again and gave me a customized bagtag; proof that I reached the top. I also had my picture taken. Comforted with the thought that it’s all going to be downhill at that point, I set off, down the traditional trail that I was familiar with.
At the ridge itself, I slowed down to enjoy the view and the wind. Ah, this is still my favorite mountain. I took my time crossing the ridge and saying hi to the campers. I ate some chocolate and drank some gatorade while admiring the scenic view of Mariveles.
Feeling a bit rested, I continued my descent. The whole time I was going down, I didn’t see any runners along the way. Everyone was pretty much separated by the distance, I guess. Good thing too, because I skidded a couple of times, fell on my face, and bumped some low-hanging branches. Good thing no one was there to witness.
There was another aid station at the Papaya River campsite. Once again, my number was recorded and I refilled my bottle with Pepsi. I hopped along the rocks to cross the river multiple times, being careful not to get my shoes and socks wet. I can run long distances but I am immediately incapacitated by wet socks.
I guess I wasn’t as familiar with the trail as I thought because what I remembered to be continuous descents were also filled with short uphills. My legs were really struggling at this point that even just a little incline can be felt by them. I trudged along slowly and surely until it was time to run another downhill.
The last aid station was at Nanay Cording’s place, which meant that we were relatively near Brgy. Alas-asin. It was here that I finally refilled my water bladder. Finally, I jogged off towards the finish line.
A few moments later, I found myself walking again along the dirt road back to the highway. Looking back, I could see another runner catching up. By this time, the sun was high in the sky and the heat was taking its toll on me.
The runner behind me finally caught up and we jogged together and talked about the difficulty of the course. We jogged and walked until we reached the perimeter of the Elementary school and he dropped back to let me cross the finish line first. Thanks!
Finally! I crossed the finishline with a smile on my face and pain in my legs. The race director was waiting at the finishline and congratulated me with the medal and the finisher shirt. We also had our photos taken and were given the post-race meal. Chicken tinola!
My happiness and pride was probably equal to or better than when I finished my first marathon. There truly is something great in finishing something you didn’t think you could.
I rested and recovered while waiting for the other runners to arrive. They trickled down one by one to the finish line. I also admired the runners who came before me, amazed by their iron legs.
Koi Grey, a well-known name to mountaineering and trail-running was also there, and I was glad to have a pic with him. Back then, I met him while he was running Mt. Batulao. What a privilege to now be running the same race as him, even if he finished the race before I even reached the summit of Tarak.
I also had pictures taken with my friends. I’ve noticed that the trail-running community is very close-knit, with almost everyone knowing everyone else. I hope to someday meet more friends through this activity.
And that’s the story of my first ever official trail run. I guess I can now call myself a trail runner.
Race: Conquer Ridge Runner Tarak Ridge 25km (T25)
Finish: 04:51:28 (Rank 41/142)
Food: [Self] Gatorade, H2O, Choco Mucho x4
[Aid Stations] H2O, Softdrinks, Chocolate Milk, Kakanin
Gear: Lagalag Lagok 1 Hydration Bag (with Basekamp 2L Bladder), Adidas AX 1 Trail Shoes
Did I get hurt? Yes.
Was I in a lot of pain? Yes.
Did I get injured? Yes.
Did I enjoy and will do it again? Fuck yes.