March 4, 2018
Exactly a month after the tedious Akyathlon 2018, I found myself once again on the starting line of an ultramarathon. Once again, we were bound for the summit of Mt. Ugo, and once again, I was in for a lot of pain. How did it ever come to this?
I’ve heard of Cordillera Mountain Ultra since it’s early years (still known as the Cordillera Mountain Marathon). It was around the same time I ventured into trailrunning and it was very intimidating. Back then, I never expected to run the trails as far away as Benguet so it wasn’t on my radar. In 2016, I was invited by my cousin to run, but it was too early into my trail running career to join. For 2017, I was focused on the MUM and FL, so CMU was once again pushed aside.
This 2018, I finally had the opportunity to join as my partner Khat is chasing races with Asia Trailmaster points. I checked the race map and saw that from Oling onwards, the route was familiar. I had already done a lot of Mt. Ugo hikes and races so every climb has brought me more familiarity with its trails. So even then, I knew I was going to get hurt.
I’m enjoying my weightlifting in the gym so my training was only running with the Nike Run Club in BGC. Because of the lack of training, I resolved to borrow Kebs’ Black Diamond trekking poles, hoping they would assist me towards the finish line.
We assembled Friday night at McDonalds in Quezon Ave. Once again, we were joining Glairold’s Skulbuz services. After a long and winding ride, we arrived at Dalupirip early in the morning. There, we settled into a classroom at the primary school of the baranggay. The locals were very accommodating and even early in the morning, they were already preparing food for us runners. It being the 3rd edition of the CMU, they were already accustomed to the droves of runners during this time of the year.
After settling in, Khat took the time to get some rest while I decided to go with Dave (another long-time trail friend) and go with the Vertical Kilometer runners to their starting line. We saw the VK runners off and I went ahead and did the best part of trailrunning: socials! I drank some Red Horse with Glairold, Dan, and JLB, as I listened to their conversations of the olden days and getting tips on how to be a stronger runner.
After that, I mingled with Papi Otep and Lala, as they introduced their foreign friends Syafiq and Ruth. Speaking of foreign, there were A LOT of foreigners. From Singapore to Thailand to USA, the flags of different nations hung at the registration area. I also ate breakfast (very expensive chicken!!!) with Ses and the rest of the UPNR crew.
Then, it was kit claiming time with Phen and the rest of the Raceyaya crew. With my kit claimed, I went back to the school to pick up Khat, who was already cooking some more food. After chowing down, we went back to the covered court to claim her kit before proceeding back to the court for sleep time. It was a short sleep as they woke me up for the race briefing. I groggily shuffled towards the covered court.
There was once again a presentation by the local kids, just like in Akyathlon. I can’t help but admire the comfort of their local clothing and I pondered where I can get one of those to wear in the race tomorrow. It was a hot day and I had already downed two cups of halo-halo. After the dance of the local kids, Race Director JP Alipio proceeded with the course briefing to which I didn’t really pay much attention to because I was still sleepy (Don’t do this, kids. Listen to the RD). Afterwards, it was a bit more socials until it grew dark and started to rain. When the rain subsided and I was full of beer, we went back to the school for dinner and got some quality sleep this time.
We awoke and had some quick breakfast from the nearby store before proceeding to the starting line. It was already swarming with runners. It was really cool to see the get-up of the international athletes. They were decked from head to toe in what I assumed was very expensive apparel. We all gathered as the RD said some final words. I positioned myself at the back of the pack and waited.
The gun started and I immediately lost sight of everyone. It was a rush and everyone sped through the trail until we reached a bottleneck at the bridge about a kilometer into the race. My advice for would-be runners is to sprint all the way until after the bridge to avoid the bottle neck. We had to cross in groups and so I recovered my breath while lining up.
After the bridge, it was more kilometers of quite flat paved ways around the local settlements. I saw fellow Arneans Jeff and Rex and caught up with them. I listened to their conversation about pacing up until the first AS where they went ahead. I refilled my water and carried on. Eventually, the flats gave way to an intense uphill battle all the way up to Tenidi hill. It was a hard battle up this hill, but the sunrise gave me a much needed energy boost.
The uphill was difficult for me and I took lots of rests before eventually reaching the top, where Jaja was waiting for us to take our pictures. There was also a hydration station here. I said hi to the familiar faces before proceeding ahead. It was more rolling terrain all the way to Sitio Oling, where a major aid station was in place. I gulped down a Clif energy gel and a bottle of softdrink before proceeding on. It was a battle of gradual ascents and descents until we reached the familiar yet beautiful views of the trails leading up to Mt. Ugo.
Going up this trail was quite memorable and although it’s harder than going down, I can still recall some parts where Khat and I spent time during our Ugo Cross-country hike last year. I overtook Khat and we paced each other along with Dave from Singapore. We passed some of our friends like Noel, who was looking for his fallen GoPro, and Edward, who was looking for a place to plant some bombs.
Eventually, we reached the familiar trail going to the Ugo campsite. Fortunately, there was a water station before the ascent. I refilled and made my way up. Slowly, I crossed the campsite and made my way up to the summit. Champion Marcelino was there to mark my bib before I started my descent.
I met my friend Jake, who was doing an overnight hike of Mt. Ugo. They were also descending so I took my time and talked with them before it was time to go ahead. There was another hydration station at the foot of the descent, where I once again had some coffee and took time to rest. Going down, the route was exactly the same as the Akyathlon. I was getting fed up with the familiar trail so Khat and I took our time until we reached the Lusod aid station.
Here, I was already feeling unwell and I was having thoughts of DNF-ing. But I thought to myself that I’ll still be going down the same route regardless. So I ate some eggs and downed another Clif gel before moving on. I lost Khat on the long descend through the pine trees and the loose rocks. I waited for her at the bottom where there was a hydration station and the halo-halo shop run by the locals. After a cup of halo-halo, it was another downhill all the way to the village.
We crossed the village and got to the bridge connecting us to the highway and where the Akyathlon and CMU routes diverge. After walking along the concrete road complete with railings, we emerged onto the highway where a hydration station was. Last 10 kilometers, according to the marshal.
It was a long and hot walk through the highway and up the diversion road going towards the jumpoff of Mt. Pigingan. Then it was more rough roads that never seemed to end. We stopped for a bit to give some hydration salts to a fellow runner, CJ, who was already cramping up. Eventually, we reached a junction and it was the same route back to the start line. We let CJ run ahead as Khat and I walked down and crossed the bridge that marked the last 1km.
We strolled through the rough road and passed the runners that finished before us, already bathed and fresh. They congratulated us as we officially crossed the finish line. Finally! Offseason, here I come!
I immediately sat down with my trail friends and waited for the rest of the runners to finish. After some time, I was able to move my legs normally, and so we returned to the school to fix up and pack our stuff. Before long, we were already back in Glair’s van heading back to Manila. Sad.
Cordillera Mountain Ultra is a painful race. And doing it right after Akyathlon adds so much more to the agony as you will ply the same trails once again. But I’m glad I can finally say that I have finished it.
I’d like to thank the RD, JP, and the rest of the CMU team as well as the volunteer locals for their time and effort to make this a success. There’s a reason this is a long-running event and after seeing the participants, I can see why there are a lot of attendees from different countries. You have made a great atmosphere for racing. Congratulations!
To Lodi Glairold for the pictures, the service, and most of all, the Socials. As always, thank you for the entertainment and for taking care of us as we go from and back to Manila.
To the usual trail friends. Congratulations to all of us and thank you for the push and pleasant greetings along the trails. Special mention to Kebs for letting me borrow his trekking poles. They helped a lot although weirdly at some point, I was ascending faster without using them haha. All you folks are the reason why I love this community and keep coming back. I’m already thinking about transitioning to short distances so I can spend more time in Socials than in the actual race. See you around!
To #MyTrailLove Khat, for pacing me all the way to the finish. Congratulations! It’s my offseason but I know that you still have lots more races in store. I will continue to support you the best that I can. Work hard on your downhill and get yourself to race-weight and I know you will go further and faster than before.
And lastly, to the Big Guy, for the great weather and guidance. For Your greater glory as always.
Race: Cordillera Mountain Ultra 2018
Finish: 11:37:15 (167/273)
Food: [Self] H2O, Cobra Energy Drink, Clif Energy Gel Double Espresso x3, Beng-beng x8
[Aid Stations] H2O, Banana, Salt, Coffee, Tailwind, Softdrinks, Egg, Kakanin
Gear: Amihan Crosswind, Feetures Socks, New Balance 590v3, Naturehike Soft Flasks, Black Diamond Storm Headlamp, Black Diamond Foldable Trekking Poles
This ultra was a tough one, especially the last kilometers of road. It never seems to get easier, but that’s what I get for skimping on the mileage training. This is just proof that a good mindset will almost always carry you through to the finish line. I may not be in top condition physically, but since I have been conditioned by my past finishes, I can already endure long enough to finish the distance (although every finish is much more painful). Hahaha.
That’s the last trail race for the foreseeable future. See you next time!