Fitness, Hike, Travel

Takbo: Mt. Ugo Marathon 2017

February 19, 2017

Mt. Ugo marathon is the first leg of the KOTM series, the country’s most well known trailrunning series. This opener is 42 kilometers of established paths from Kayapa to the summit of Mt. Ugo and then back again. It was my first time to run this event and I was genuinely excited and scared.

Peers who have run the route said that unlike the trails in Rizal, MUM is runnable with hardly no bushwacking or mudscrambling. This was also my first run in the north so I didn’t know what to expect with regards to the weather and the climate. Nevertheless, I did climb mt. Ugo twice earlier this year so i was banking on my stock knowledge to get me through.

Got to Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya with the help of Mulatto Mountain Chef transport services. At the elementary school right beside the starting line, we pitched our tents and waited for the briefing. In the meantime, we had bicol express for lunch care of madam Khat.

Trail friends before the big day

We had to rush to the local clinic to get our med certs signed for the race kit claiming. With that done, we listened to the race director, papi Jonel, give us all the information we needed for the race. After that, it was meet and greet with fellow runners. This community truly is the best.

Trail friends with our banner

The rest of the day and early into the evening was spent resting and eating fried chicken and spaghetti, once again made by Khat. It started to drizzle in the evening so I was preparing myself for a rainy run. Still, I didn’t expect the level of mud to be the same as that of Rizal. Safe and dry inside the tent, we prepped our race gear and made sure that all mandatory items were accounted for. Once everything was in place, we got some sleep.

We woke up at around 2am and it was still lightly drizzling. Nothing I haven’t gone through before, and the race would take place rain or shine. Met with a few more trail friends before checking in our race bibs and waiting for last minute announcements.

Quick picture before assembling at the starting line

At exactly 4am, the race started. Both 42km and 21km runners rushed out of the starting line and into the wet night. We splashed around for the first few kilometers because the way was paved with concrete. I was miserable because I’d rather have steep dirt ascents than gradual concrete ones. But running in the dark did make it easier; not to mention hearing all the other runners complain in jest.

Still smiling at the gunstart

It was pretty much drizzling throughout the whole morning and with rain came the fog. There was pretty much low visibility along the course which was a shame because the views were usually great right after Indupit village. We made our way through the first two aid stations until we reached the steep descent of Ansipsip. I had fun going down here and I bypassed the more careful runners up until the bottom, marked by a short hanging bridge.

Me and Khat at the aid station before Ansipsip

After the bridge was the most challenging part of the course. An almost nonstop ascent right up to the summit of Mt. Ugo. Here I caught up to Bobby, Princess, Ico, Del, and some other trail friends. Each time I saw one of my friends already on their way down, I asked them if the summit was near. Hearing positive replies, I had a bit of an adrenaline rush and increased my pace until finally i burst out into the familiar summit.

There wasnt any reason to stay because fog enveloped the whole area. Some friends and runners were taking a rest at the top but I was already looking forward to the next part: the downhill. After having my bib marked by the marshall, I excitedly rushed down the trail, hoping to catch up with some of my friends in front.

I caught up to Darell and we both took turns leading each other on the trail until his “injury” made him take some rest. With my stomach aching every time I walked, I had to force myself to jog slowly through the rolling trail.

I walked/jogged my way up until the familiar downhill to Domolpos where the waiting shed acted as an aid station. After refilling my water stores, I hobbled my way through the very very long and very very repetitive mountainside trail to Indupit. I had a hard time finding my bearing because of the fog and there was a point where I thought I was going around in circles. But finally, the familiar trail welcomed me and I was back to jogging/walking the way down.

The rain earlier in the day really made their presence known through the mud that had developed on the trail. I thought Benguet doesn’t get muddy but it was almost comparable to the muddy trails of Rizal.

Sliding down the mud towards the last aid station || Pic by Ly Za

Somewhere between the last 10km and the last 5km, the muddy trails were too slippery I had to just walk my way down. I wondered how I was able to go up this trail early in the day. Slowly and surely, I made my way through brown mud, then purple mud, until the last aid station. Here, I packed my mouth with loads of bananas and got a few bottles of Gatorade to get me through the last stretch.

Enjoying the goodies at the last aid station before heading off || Pic by Ly Za

The last 5 kilometers were a majority of concrete paths and they made my knees rattle if I ran down them so I just paced myself to conserve energy for the final sprint to the finish line. Thank you Ayang and Lan for pacing me a bit. I was already wasted and the concrete downhill only made it worse.

But as with all things, there must come an end. Emerging into the main road of Kayapa, I passed through the market and into the school grounds where the finish line was waiting at the covered court. Of course, photographers were there so I had to pretend the race wasnt difficult. I was all smiles knowing that I’ve finished my first trail marathon in the north and also leg 1 of the KOTM series.

Heading towards the finish || Pic by Team Marupok

At the finish line, papi Jonel shook my hand and awarded me my favorite race loot as of now, a handcrafted anito trophy.

Me with Papi Jonel at the finish || Pic by Team Pinikpikan

After crossing the finish line, it was waiting for my other friends to finish and having pictures with the trail running community, as is tradition in these trail events. Thank you to new friends and old, for the welcome and the conversations.

I almost forgot to mention, it was my birthday that Sunday as well. Im not really big on celebrating birthdays, but i was happy to spend it on the trails of the wonderful Mt. Ugo. Plus madam Khat also made me a birthday pancake which was scrumptious and we gave it away to my other friends because there was already so much food in my stomach. Happy 24 years!

Time to extend my thanks to the wonderful people in this event.

First is my family who allowed me to participate in this race and settled for a post-birthday celebration instead. Love lots, fambam!

Next is to madam Khat, who was with me before the race, most of the time during the race, and even stayed with me after the race. Congratulations on being a trail marathoner! I’m so proud of you. Thank you for everything always and all ways.

To Mulatto Mountain Chef Transport Services, team TUSU, PUTA, Trinur, team Malditah, team Marupok, and all the other wonderful trail people who spent their time in this event, thank you. Congratulations to all of us.

To the RD papi Jonel and the rest of the KOTM team as well as the local units who extended their services, I am grateful. This is a world class event and I’m glad to have joined.

Last but not least, to the Papi in the sky, for the life and the blessings. Sometimes i wonder why im still alive despite all the self-destructive things im addicted to. But nevertheless, thank You for keeping me and everyone else safe. You da real MVP. AMDG.

With the Malditahs of Ugo || Pic by Ayang
With the Ilonggo runners! Super idols! || Pic by Lan

Race: Mt. Ugo Marathon
Distance: 42km
Finish: 07:18:19 (Rank 95/257)
Food: [Self] Powerade, H2O, Cloud 9 Choco Fudge
[Aid Stations] H2O, Gatorade, Banana, Strawberries, Sweet Potato
Gear: Amihan Crosswind, Vamos Socks, Salomon Speedcross Pro

And that’s my first taste of KOTM. I was starving every few hours after the event and it feels so good to eat. Maybe that’s the reason why I love the trails. They’re a good excuse to pig out right after.

My favorite part was escorting madam Khat to the finish line || Pic by Team Pinikpikan

See you guys on the next leg! 50km or 100km? Who knows?



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