November 5, 2016
I braced myself for the longest run of my life. And without much specialized training, I relied on my muscle memory and experience with previous ultras to get through this race. Fortunately, I was able to cross the finish line with everything intact. Here are some snippets of the experience.
You’d think that after 60 kilometers, I’d have a lot of things to say. That’s what I thought too, as I exited the starting line. But as I crossed the finish line, I was in a daze. There’s really nothing I can say that can paint what I went through accurately. But I’ll try.
It was early Saturday afternoon when I arrived at the shuttle terminal at Shaw Blvd. I met up with Lady and Bobby as we waited for sweeper Darell. It was my first time to commute to Tanay Adventure Camp. But since I had companions, I was put at ease; consumed some KFC chicken and fries while waiting. Once we were complete, a long shuttle ride took us to Tanay by early evening. Then we rented a tricycle to take us straight to the camp.
At the camp, we changed into our race clothes while consuming even more KFC chicken (Thank you, Da, late ka na lang palagi). Then we boarded the last van to the starting line at Tablon Elementary School. Once we arrived, it was race kit claiming time. After claiming mine, I did some last minute emptying of the bowels and did some stretching. More and more runners arrived, both new and old faces. Hype!
10pm, Sir Jigs set us off. It was immediately a wet trail because of the rains early during the week. I’m not good with night treks, especially WET night treks, but the cool wind kept me going. That, and I was trying to keep at least one runner ahead of me because I’m afraid of the dark. We reached some assaults which I presumed was Mt. Paliparan. I don’t know, it was dark. The runners ahead of me said it was and I readily accepted the fact.
After that, it was some more running on local trails and paved roads until the first U-turn point. I said hi to Io, who was the marshall giving out the reflective bracelets, proof that one has reached the official U-turn. Then it was a back trail affair all the way to the starting line, except there was no need to climb Mt. Paliparan again.
Back at Tablon elementary school, I celebrated finishing the first 27 kilometers by drinking some coffee and eating some pastries. Arriving around 3 hours earlier than the cutoff, I contemplated getting some sleep in. I decided against this, knowing that once I fall asleep, I might not wake up in time again. So, with the momentum still alive, I set off to finish the last 35km.
Tagged along with Dapdap who eventually bagged the female champion spot. We were joined by Bobby after a short while and together the three of us set off towards the next 6 peaks. Revisted the familiar routes from TAC50 and passed some hikers starting their early morning trek to Mt. Sapari and Mt. Binutasan. Didn’t see any more runners along the way but managed to navigate by looking for tracks the leadpack left behind.
Things were going well until we met some runners going back. Dong, Omar, and the others got lost despite spotting some trail signs along the way. We went back up to the top were a tatay lives with his horse and his wife. He told us that we went the wrong way and we have to backtrack. Disheartened, I kept quiet and went along with the group. We noticed some more trail signs going to the wrong direction. Backtracked some more until we spotted the correct trail sign across the river. Somehow managed to miss it during the dark and follow a different set of trail signs! All in all about an hour and a half spent on getting lost.
Confident to be back on the right trail, we continued all the way up to Mt. Binutasan. There we got a wonderful view of the mountain ranges and even a modest look at the sea of clouds. Planned to reach this place for the sunrise, but expect the unexpected. We continued the traverse to Mt. Sapari where there were no markers once again. Despite this, continued to push on, following the tracks and marks of dirt on the rocks. Passed a big balete tree and scrambled through some sharp rocks until we emerged at the top of Mt. Sapari. I inquired as to why there were no trail signs and got the answer that they ran out of markers. They told me that there should be a marshal at the balete tree to direct us, but no one was there when we passed. Okaaaaaay.
Tired but not discouraged, we pushed on. Dapdap pacing us and telling us when to rest and when to run. We slid through almost-vertical descents of rocks and folded grass as we traversed the three peaks Mt. Kulis, Mt. Tangwa, and Mt. Lobo. After this it was a wonderful trek through the beautiful layered falls of Laiban. After a short dip in the falls, I got my recharge. The drowsiness left me and gave me just enough push to get through the last peak, Mt. Toyang.
Waddufak, was the word that I’d use to describe Mt. Toyang. It was a straight and never-ending ascent that left me weak in the knees. To add insult, there was a marshal stationed there just to tell the runners that the U-turn point was near, when in fact we were barely past halfway! I can’t count the amount of times I cursed to myself. Even Bobby and Dapdap stopped talking just to focus on the ascent. Finally, we reached a clearing where Io was once again ready to give us our bagtags. I was angry and happy to see him. Angry that he placed the U-turn so far away, and happy that finally it was time to descend.
Going down Toyang was a fast and furious affair. I slid and rolled down as fast as I could and I was able to advance my position a bit. Passed through the more cautious runners on the way down and went back to the aid station to gulp down some jelly. Finally, it was time to tackle the home stretch. 9 river crossings and the tedious uphill concrete wall of Laiban.
Here Bobby and Dapdap caught up to me and we once again encouraged each other and ourselves to keep going. We reached the last aid station and it was a relief to get some cold softdrinks. I didn’t stay long because I was so sleepy. Decided to try running despite the pain in my back which started to hurt after hours on my feet. Back to the Laiban trails it was until we reached the residential area, then the concrete road, then finally, the highway.
I ran-walked my way to the gates of Tanay Adventure Camp, so eager to complete the race. My legs were so tired I couldn’t afford to run, but I was all smiles at the finish line. I saw runners who finished before me, and who were already relaxing. I didn’t care about anything anymore. I was done!
Went inside to the official finish and once more gave sir Jigs a handshake and a hug. Sixty kilometers. Finished.
Time to give thanks to the people that made this experience special.
Thank you Big Guy for the nice weather and the great view You provided us. Thank You for permitting us to take a stroll through Your creation. As always, for Your greater glory.
To the fambam for allowing me to skip Sunday mass in exchange for this. Don’t worry. I pray more times and much more sincerely when I’m out in the trails than when I am at church. You tend to pray desperately when your bombing the downhill on loose and slippery ground with nothing to hold on to.
To Lady, Darell and Bobby, my commute friends for accompanying me to the starting line and back. Thank you for the chicken, Darell.
To Dapdap (The Dapalicious Champion jk), Bobby, Omar, Dong, thank you for the time on the trail. You all kept me going through this distance. Kap Omeng, kap Jaime, and kap Ses, of team Maranat, congratulations. Especially to the 30km Champ Ses, iba ka na, hardwork pays off.
To my other trail friends, Daryll, Ysa, Jomel, Sir Jes, Sir Larry, and all the others that I forgot or failed to mention but managed to interact with. Thank you and congratulations to everyone. Mwahugs. See you on the road or trails.
And to the masochistic RD Sir Jigs and the rest of the Conquer team, always a pleasure to take part in your events. Seeing you guys will always make me smile because it means that the aid station is near haha. Looking forward to the next event! Thank you for making this happen.
Race: Conquer 7 Summits
Finish: 17:28:48 (11th Overall)
Food: [Self] Fitbar x10, H2O, Hydration Salt
[Aid Stations] H2O, Jco, Pastries, Kakanin, Jelly with Milk, Softdrinks
Gear: Conquer Race Vest, Vamos Socks, Salomon Speedcross Pro
The route was the most challenging that Sir Jigs and the Conquer team have come up with in my experience. It’s a good thing we were blessed with cool and cloudy weather plus a short blessing of a drizzle near the end. I dared not think what would have happened if it took place under the unforgiving heat of the sun. Like all trail runs, it has its own set of difficulties so I really can’t complain. But I know that the experience is something I’ll remember always.
So for those who are curious and adventurous enough, I advise you to give trailrunning a chance. It might just be the thrill that you are looking for.
Do what you love and do it often.