Fitness, Hike, Travel

Takbo: Mt. Sembrano Mountain Run 2016

May 29, 2016

I knew I was gonna have a hard time when less than 3 kilometers into the race, I was already asking the Lord for forgiveness. Usually I only start talking to God during trail runs when I’m nearing the halfway point. The race director, DBB Delos Angeles wasn’t kidding at all when he called the race an uphill challenge.

I haven’t climbed Mt. Sembrano yet, so when I saw a trail run about to happen there, I registered at once. That way, I can be able to summit the mountain and also get a run in.

This was also a good chance to meet up with Team TUSU (the wonderful people I met at my Nasugbu Quadrilogy) and all the other amazing trail people.

The night before the race, I got off from work and excitedly packed my usual gear. I was going to the race venue with some other runners, being supported by Lady’s van. The plan was to arrive there early so that we can get some rest before the big day.

At around 23:00, we reached Brgy. Malaya, Pilila, Rizal. We had a quick dinner (Thanks Mulatto Mountain Chef!), and afterwards, I cozied up in my sleeping bag and got some rest.

I woke up when they started distributing the race kits. There were a lot of runners, way more than any trail run I’ve attended (Though this was only my fourth trail run, and the first not organized by Conquer). I got my race bib and a complimentary buff from the organizers. I also did my mandatory bathroom time and talked to some of my friends while waiting.

Pre-race pictures with friends
Pre-race pictures with friends

After gearing up, I listened to the race briefing and waited for the gunstart. I also took the necessary medication because I had asthma the week of the race, so I know I won’t be at 100%. My only goal or the day was to finish that 30 kilometer distance.

As the run started, the runners all proceeded up a concrete road that gradually became steeper and steeper. Eventually, the runners just started hiking up the road until it reached an unpaved path and the trail finally started.

So many runners and the slow walk up to the trail
So many runners and the slow walk up to the trail

I knew that Mt. Sembrano was a dry and open mountian, but I didn’t know that it was going to be a non-stop ascent to the summit. I took a lot of stops to lower my heart rate because as it got to a high point, my asthma would creep in. So I just kept a feel on my condition the whole time.

Some newfound friends and a view of Laguna lake
Some newfound friends and a view of Laguna lake

The views around Mt. Sembrano were breathtaking. I took a lot of breaks to take pictures and captured the amazing view of Laguna lake. Upon reaching the top of Peak 2, I had my picture taken by the marshals and then started my descent. The route had a lot of different loops, so reaching the summit was just the start of my punishing journey.

Reaching the summit and trying to look composed
Reaching the summit and trying to look composed

The peak, which was about 4 kilometers into the race, was only a small piece of the 30km distance. After climbing down, we were introduced to a very long path that leads to Bugarin, near the windmills. It was a mix of uphills and downhills, so I either hiked and jogged, depending on the terrain and my heart rate.

Some trail friends and the windmills behind us
Some trail friends and the windmills behind us

This was the last U-turn slot and from here it was just returning back to the start. By this time, I had gotten a bit of my second wind back, I was able to run the descents and the flats, while still struggling on the uphills. I can’t count the times I cursed or sat down and took a rest in the shade.

Thankfully, the morning was quite gloomy and I was actually preparing for the rain. It didn’t come, but it did delay the sun enough that it only hit us on the way back. For this run, I was wearing my pink polo instead of my pink jersey so it was way hotter than usual. I told myself to keep it on because I started wearing it, I might as well finish wearing it. All for japorming.

Looking good in that pink; Thanks Lady for the pics!
Looking good in that pink; Thanks Lady for the pics!

The last few kilometers of the route were grueling. Loose rocks on the downhill that made me trip every now and then followed by a very very very long concrete road going downhill and connecting to the main highway. My feet didn’t have anything left to give at this point, but my mouth was still releasing expletives every now and then. I jogged and walked with a couple of runners who were also just as tired as I was.

Finally, the covered court was in sight and we casually crossed the finish line. I was glad to have finished instead of dying. After claiming the finisher’s rewards and the medal from Mam Dapdap, I shambled to the side of the court and collapsed. My friends who finished before me were already waiting for us and congratulations filled the area.

Finish line with my pacer and #TeamPolo partner, Mark
Finish line with my pacer and #TeamPolo partner, Mark

After a short recovery period, I was able to get into pictures with my friends.

Resting after that grueling run with the mamaw boys
Resting after that grueling run with the mamaw boys
Road runner friends finishing their first trail run; Congrats!
Road runner friends finishing their first trail run; Congrats!
The beautiful people!
The beautiful people!

This race was really humbling for me. As a beginner, I’m still learning lots of lessons, particularly:

  1. If you decide to run the trail with asthma, you’re gonna have a bad time
  2. It’s not really about the distance, but the elevation (I underestimated this race because I thought after having finished 50 kilometers, this would be a bit easier. It’s not)
  3. You can train as much as you want on the road, but the trails will always be a different monster
  4. Despite all the hardships, you will still have an amazingly good time. Just because you joined a trail run.
Thank you, Running Photographers!
Thank you, Running Photographers!

These are lessons I will take to heart and I will make sure to be ready on the next race. Nowhere to go but up, literally and figuratively.

So despite the pain, the suffering, the blood, sweat, and tears, I still consider this race a successful one. At the end of the day, my legs may be burning, but I still have a smile on my face and I’m already looking forward to the next trail adventure.

I am once again extending my gratitude to everyone who made the day possible.

First to the Big Guy, for the forgiving weather and for delaying Haring Araw from shining too hot too early. You always hear my lamentations, yet thank you for the strength.

To my family, thank you for the support as always. Labyu.

To Lady, Dean, and the rest of Team TUSU  and Team Innova for the support. And my new friend Rosalyn for leaving me behind on the trail hahahaha.

To Master Mark, thank you for pacing me even before halfway through the route. Bawi tayo next time hehe. Sulit naman sa Aid stations. #TeamPolo

To Jeka and the UP Mountaineers, thanks for the Balagbag adventures. We made it, Jeks! Trail runner na tayo!

To the friends I made along and off the trail, congratulations to us! It takes a lot of guts and strength to even start that route, but we did it! See you all on the future runs.

To DBB and the rest of the MGM crew, thank you for this race. It was unbelievably difficult for me and I can see that the others also had a hard time, but what’s a trail without a challenge? The aid stations and marshals were very kind and supportive. Everything was top notch, even the post-race meal of chicken adobo! Kudos to everyone.

Race Summary

Race: MGM Productions Mt. Sembrano Mountain Run
Distance: 30km
Finish: 06:32:47 (Rank 98/193)
Food: [Self] Powerade, H2O, Cloud9 Choco Fudge x4, Cloud 9 Salted Caramel x1
[Aid Stations] H2O, Fit n Right, Coke, Suman, Hopia, Jelly Ace, Cloud 9
Gear: Lagalag Lagok 1 Hydration Bag (with Basekamp 2L Bladder), Vamos Socks, Salomon X-Scream Citytrail Shoes

The traveling pink polo trudges up to Mt. Sembrano!
The traveling pink polo trudges up to Mt. Sembrano!

Run safe, see you on the trails.



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