March 10, 2019
Here’s my account of the 2019 Cordillera Mountain Ultra, a race I didn’t see myself running, and the events that led up to me finishing it. You can also read last year’s report for more on this race’s history.
Sometimes in the middle of a difficult run, I ask myself, “Why do you train this hard if you just want to finish and enjoy a race?” And like a crazy person, I answer myself, “Because you can enjoy a race more if you’re not just trying to survive.” And so, I finished the training run despite wanting to stop and go home.
I’m not really one to follow training plans. Fitness has always been something I HAVE TO ENJOY to do. But after hearing Billy Yang’s podcast on Guillaume Calmettes, I decided to add a little spice to my movement. Yes, a simple podcast episode started my running renaissance. That, and joining the Mt. Apo Skyrace in mid-April. Drastic decisions lead to more drastic decisions. I put weightlifting in the back end and focused on running. I kept my eye on my diet and sometimes on sleep. All in order to make myself as built for ultrarunning as I possibly can.
Everyone was going to CMU2019. So was I, but I had yet to register. The original plan was just to be there and join the socials. After evaluating my performance at Conquer Ascend Maragondon, I finally made a decision. A nuisance runner, the start list was already out when I decided to join in the fun. A wise trail runner said “Join the race for the race, ” and so I did.
With about three weeks of crammed training, I was still nervous right up to the starting line. I remember telling Dapdap “I feel like I’m running my first ultramarathon.” But with all the runners geared up surrounding me, it was hard not to be excited with what’s to come. Fortunately, I was feeling fresh since the day before so I had a feeling I was going to have a great day.
I started at a conservative pace until we reached the first aid station. A downhill concrete road woke up my legs and I started passing people in the dark. Joining the familiar trail of the VK that we walked the day before, I continued jogging at a comfy pace until the uphills came.
Climbing at night is definitely better than doing it in the daytime. It’s cold so you have to keep moving and you only see what’s being lit up by your headlamp. The monsters aren’t as scary if taken piece by piece.
Daylight started to seep through as we climbed up to the 2nd aid station. By this time I had caught up to Trina and Viel, both strong Philsky ladies. We arrived at the station an hour before the cutoff time. After refilling my hydration, the biggest climb of the day was next: the climb up to the west summit of Mt. Ugo.
My legs were doing great until this point. The fatigue started to eke themselves into my muscles and I started taking rests more frequently. It was a slow and brutal march made only bearable by the comrades that suffered with me. I was still in good spirits despite the tired legs and Rex was just up ahead keeping the trail lively. Eventually, I heard the click click of Rox’s camera and surmised that the peak must be near.
I burst into the peak and admired the view to the best that my tired eyes can take in. Another cutoff was in this peak and again, I was happy to get in. A water station was supposedly here but there was nothing left for us slow runners. After finishing Rex’s sandwich, we started the descent to Domolpos. You know me, I bombed the downhills and passed a few runners that had more care about self-preservation than I do. Unfortunately, along the way I lost my sunglasses. Oh well.
After the main descent, it was a rolling trail that we used in last year’s edition. It was all too familiar and I guess knowing I still had a long way to go made it hurt even more. To spice things up, the sun was getting higher and hotter by the minute. I paced with some foreign runners and we exchanged a few words in between like “tough” and “brutal.”
Eventually, running at the mountainside gave way to orange soil and cows. That meant I was near Domolpos and sure enough, some marshals welcomed us with water and bananas. I refilled once again and downed some fruit before the familiar ascent to the summit. It was here that I reflected and realized what a weakshit I am on the uphills. It is definitely the number one priority I should improve on. Taking some mental notes, I made my way up to the campsite and finally, the summit.
I was welcomed by Marcelino’s smiling face and further on, Charles and Ella. I made my way to their makeshift tarp shelter and sat down to empty my shoes and socks of the accumulated debris of 32 kilometers. This was the last checkpoint and basically, I just had to make it to the finish before 18:00 and I was good. Slowly, I got back up again, not allowing my body to cool down. I bid the guys farewell and started the descent. It was smooth sailing all the way to Lusod with Kay, who had caught up
I stayed for a while in Lusod. I ordered a 1.5 liter bottle of Royal and shared some with those at the aid station as well. Lusod is a beautiful village and always serves as an aid station in these Ugo races. I’m always grateful to reach this place. After pouring ice cold mountain water on myself, I continued going down. It was already noon time and the sun was at its highest. It was me, Brenda, and Jerson, a runner from Iloilo, and we were already hurting from even the slightest uphill. Being familiar with the route, I stayed patient until the long and continuous downhills came where I was once again moving at my desired speed.
I passed the tail end of the 21km runners and finally reached the last aid station. 3.5 kilometers away from the finish. Here, I bought some halo-halo. Every race it has been a tradition of mine to always buy some at this point. It was still as good as ever. I didn’t even find the strength to complain that it had ube chunks in it. Then it was the familiar route through the village, across the bridge, and into the highway. But I swear the walkway from the bridge to the highway became twice as long this time around.
I still had the time to buy one last softdrink before completing the race so I arrived at the finish line clutching another 1.5 liter bottle of Sprite. I was done and was quite surprised with a sub10-hour time for such a tough route. My legs ached but nothing was concerning or serious, just pleasant exhaustion. Ze Hay is in Ze Barn.
It’s been a long time since I last pushed myself. The only goal at first was to finish, but the urge to push my body bit by bit to see what I can do was there and the conditions were good. I’m writing this post now with my glutes still sore and my feet heavy, but I can say that I am happy with my performance. Maybe less softdrinks next time.
I’d like to extend my thanks to the trail community for still remaining the same after all these years. Only in this wonderful community can you see the champion runner getting drunk with us middle of the pack runners. Never change. I love this trail family.
Thank you to Bebelabs for taking care of everything. Congratulations on your strong finish!
Thanks to Don, JP, and the CCT team as well as the local communities of Benguet. You have a wonderful playground. Thank you for letting us venture into them every now and then. Also special thanks to Glairold, Rox, and the other volunteers that made our run much more bearable and enjoyable.
Lastly, to my family and to the Big Guy, for accepting my activities and for the steady support. AMDG.
Race: Cordillera Mountain Ultra 2019
Finish: 09:35:07 (45th overall, 11th AG)
Food: [Self] H2O, Clif Energy Gel Double Espresso x2, Beng-beng x15, Tailwind from Jennica
[Aid Stations] H2O, Banana, Salt, Kakanin
Gear:Kalenji Gilet Trail 5L, Feetures Socks, New Balance 590v3, Naturehike Soft Flasks, Quechua Sunglasses (RIP), Onnight 700 Headlamp
This race was way harder than last year because of the sheer elevation. After putting a lot of hay in the barn, I was surprised with the result. Pushing your body and simply digging deep to see your limits really do wonders. Now it’s time to rest and recover because the trail season has just begun.
Hay meet barn. Barn meet hay.