Fitness, Hike, Travel

Takbo: Mt. Talinis Mountain Ultra Marathon 2019

Saturday to Sunday
October 5-6, 2019

Being born and raised in Negros Occidental, Dumaguete City is a familiar place that always gets mentioned by my family and friends. It serves as the Negros Oriental counterpart to our Bacolod City, but I didn’t know much about Mt. Talinis until about a year ago.

The tallest mountain (technically Volcano) in the region, and the 2nd tallest on Negros island after Mt. Kanlaon, Mt. Talinis is also known as Cuernos de Negros (horns of Negros) for its unique shape. This mountain is the venue for the Mt. Talinis Mountain Ultra Marathon and I was able to be attend its second edition. Here is my experience and review.

Firstly, I would like to thank Papi Jonel, mastermind of the KOTM races and admin of TRP, for this kit. He was supposed to run this per invitation of the Race Director, sir Rhodel, but he was already registered to another race. And so, this blessing (or curse?) was passed on to me.

This race is held in Valencia, another municipality right beside Dumaguete. However, Dumaguete is still the main entry port and this is where we arrived from Manila. We were a bit early so we had time to visit the Manjuyod sandbar and watch some dolphins in Bais. This was our pre-race relaxation and sleeping on a small boat as the waves rocked us about was as relaxing as it gets.

Touchdown, Dumaguete!

After that adventure, we returned to Dumaguete, stocked on food and headed straight to our homestay in Valencia. It was good to be out of the city for a while. The place we stayed in was quiet, exotic, but still had decent WiFi.

Saturday afternoon, we headed down to Valencia city proper for the race kit claiming. The organizer’s page said it would begin at 1PM but it was actually delayed by an hour before the process even started. Okay, sure, Filipino time. 🤷‍♂️ Not really surprising. The claiming process was a bit of a hassle. The lists of the organizer and the timing agency weren’t in sync so wrong bibs were initially given to the runners. This, paired with the lack of personnel, ate up a lot of the runners’ time. It’s a good thing we were one of the first in line so we were able to finish “early” and go back to our place to rest. The race briefing would take place an hour before the gunstart, meaning that we had to be at the starting area by 10PM tonight.

We readied our things and Bebelabs cooked the most filling pre-race dinner before we retired to our bed for some sleep. I had a hard time sleeping because race mode kicked in and I was wide awake the whole time. We got some last minute preparations and I squeezed the last poop out before we headed to Valencia plaza for the start.

Race Start

At the plaza, I met familiar faces of the trail running community. Runners from Luzon and Mindanao were present, as well as foreigners, too! It really had the attendance of a big race. This was an Asia Trail Master Grandmaster qualifying race, after all. For those looking to expand their race resumes, this was the place to be.

With the trail idols || Pic by J Photography

The actual race briefing took place 10 minutes before the race and there wasn’t really a lot of details given. Cutoffs were mentioned in passing as well as aid stations. And after that, it was off into the night at exactly 11PM.

The first part of the route was comprised of cemented roads heading away from the main city and into the rural farmlands nearby. I’d say that it was boring, but it served as a warm up for my legs. Eventually we reached AS1 where we got timed in. Entering the local community, we were treated to winding rocky paths that gradually increased in elevation. Thankfully, there were some kind locals who set up hydration stations along the way. It was still night time but I was already sweating like a roast pig. The terrain varied from downhill road sections to steep farmland climbs. It’s a good thing it was dark so I couldn’t see how far up I still had to go.

We returned to AS1 after that arduous loop and crossed a hanging bridge. It was another tough climb to the Japanese Shrine; another timing station. There, I refilled my hydration and went back down a long rough road back to the residential areas. Funnily enough, we passed the road near where Bebelabs and I were staying. The temptation to stop running and just go to bed was so strong at that moment. But I persisted and continued on the concrete road up to the next station at the Casaroro Falls jump-off.

Somewhere on the way to Nailig Lake || Pic by Eskapo Photos

When Kebs and I neared the aid station, we heard a ruckus. There were drums being played and a lot of shouting. At first, I thought that this was a celebration for the runners. Oh cool, they’re cheering for us! But when I got nearer, I realized they were protesters. I’ll let other posts explain, but it was a rare experience to say the least. I live for issues like this, but we had to continue the race despite the commotion. I let Kebs go ahead while Felmer and I laid down on the ground for a few minutes. Bebelabs arrived shortly after and we started the hike to Mt. Talinis proper. All this while being harrassed by the local protestors.

The trail of Mt. Talinis is simply wild. It is beautiful, but challenging. The thick forest covered us until the morning light pierced through the canopy. It’s difficult to compare the trail, but I would akin it to a moss-less Mt. Halcon. By this time, I was already having tantrums because it felt like my entire digestive system had cramped up. It may be a lapse of nutrition, lack of training, or overexertion, but I was miserable in this part of the race. I was already contemplating a DNF but I wanted to reach the turning point first.

We reached a local house where we could refill our water stores. The kind tatay also fed us with hotdog, eggs, and rice which made me feel a bit better. The salt they provided helped ease my whole-body cramps. We stayed at the house for a bit since it rained hard for a while. When it lightened into a drizzle, we proceeded on. The trail ahead was even more challenging and technical. Because of the rain, it was a miserable state of affairs. However, we passed some natural sulfur vents and saw some of the most beautiful and pristine landscapes ever so they were a nice consolation to our labor.

Bebelabs capturing my DNF face

Eventually, I reached Lake Nailig, the turning point of the race. Bebelabs was already here waiting for me. I immediately laid down and got some sleep to ease my struggle. After taking a few minutes to admire the beauty of the lake, we started on our return trip.

RIP || Pic by Eskapo Photos

The way back was a little bit easier because of the abundance of downhills, but they were made slipper by all the accumulated mud. It wasn’t as stressful on my body this time around, and I reached tatay’s house faster than expected. Here I gobbled down a lot of noodles and soup. Those were probably the most amazing food of the race. I dropped tons of salt on the soup and had about three servings worth. Let me tell you that this provided me my second wind. After eating the noodes and soup, my cramps never returned for the rest of the race.

I got a burst of energy from that meal and quickly made my way down to the Casaroro falls aid station. By this time, the protestors were already gone. I ate some half-cooked hotdog and drank some soda while waiting for Bebelabs. The marshals informed me that the Casaroro falls are no longer included in the route. We just had to make our way back to the finish line in the exact same route we made earlier in the day.

Downhill with Champlet || Pic by J Photography

My intentions to DNF dissolved and we started walking to the finish with Champlet Melanie. We filled the way back with conversations and chismis. It made the long walk bearable and even the ascent to the Japanese shrine seemed shorter the 2nd time around. I bought more softdrinks to sustain my sugar dependency.

We reached the last aid station which was AS1 and I decided to eat some adobo. I was able to recover some willpower to do the final loop again. We walked until it got dark. It was still easier the 2nd time around for some reason. I guess despite the soreness and the blisters, we were pushing harder just to be finished with this route. Champlet Melanie had already left us behind at this point, so it was just me and bebelabs. We returned to the aid station and were relieved because it was only a flat (but long) road back to the finish.

Talking to my ghosts at an empty station || Pic by Bebelabs

We walked the rest of the way back with some intermittent jog in between. By this time, both of us had blisters on our feet, but we wanted to finish ASAP. There were no more marshals that we can find so we resorted to googlemaps to find the way back to Valencia Plaza. On the way, we saw Oppa Celso and RL sitting by the side of the road. They, too, were already haggard with the route. We decided to walk together to the finish.

It was still a few kilometers away but we continued on with the google map guiding us. Eventually we saw the familiar features of the plaza and we started running until we crossed the finish. Since it was already late, there was no one left to welcome us. We got a few runners who finished a few minutes before us resting. We surrendered our timing bracelets and the Race Director gave me my medal and shook my hand. That was that.

We later realized that we missed a turn along the main road and we followed the wrong path to the finish line. I don’t know if it was a shortcut or not and at this point I don’t really care. The RD can review the route and tell us if we deserve any penalties. All I know is that I emptied my tank on that 70++km route. Bebelabs and I were pretty much the last runners to cross the finish at the original cutoff. 21 hours and 57 minutes for a race with a 22-hour limit.

We quickly packed up our things and chartered a ride back to our airbnb. We could hardly walk because of the blisters, but we were able to take a bath, fix up our things for the early morning flight the next day back to metro Manila.


Race Summary

Goals:
A. Finish Within Cutoff – ✅

Race: Mt. Talinis Mountain Ultra Marathon
Distance: 70km
Finish: 21:56:17 (46/68 runners)
Food: [Self] Beng Beng x7, Clif Gel x3, Clif Bar x1, H2O, Vitamin Boost
[Aid Stations] H2O, Kakanin, Noodle Soup, Sugarcane, Chicken Adobo, Rice, Hotdog, Empanada, salt
Gear: Kalenji Gilet Trail 5L, Kalenji Socks, New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v4, Shake Hands Bottle, Lazada Goodr Glasses, Amazfit Stratos


Points of Improvement

And that ends our Mt. Talinis Mountain Ultra Marathon journey. It wasn’t without bumps along the road. Races are rarely perfect, and the longer the distance, the more that minor inconveniences can have major effects on the runners. Based on my personal feedback as well as my other friends, here are some of our suggestions that we hope can be addressed on future editions of the race:

  • Race Kit claiming can be improved in terms of promptness and number of personnel. It should also start on time or earlier so that the runners can get some rest before the race. Especially since the claiming and start is at the same day.
  • Race briefing should be more informative to avoid confusion of the route. OR, the marshals should all be well informed of the route if briefing is not a priority. A lot of runners throughout the pack got lost, missed some junctions and parts of the trail due to lack of coordination.
  • Distinct lack of marshals and trail signs in important junctions especially in the later hours of the race. Marshals can do rotating shifts, but there must always be a race personnel in key points. If not, implement signs.
  • No medics in sight. This is important in the technical sections of the route. One runner dislocated his shoulder and passed through 2 Aid Stations (~20kms) with no medic before he was able to be assisted.
  • Aid stations could be handled better. Serve something else to drink aside from just water. At the later hours, make sure the stations are still stocked for the remaining runners. Make sure the food doesn’t spoil.
  • The route is not built for 70 kilometers. There is so much road running. Runners know when the route is forced just to reach the distance and this is one of them. This is a subjective point, but considering the 17km, 24km, and 50km runners all went up the Mt. Talinis route, there is simply no consolation for 70km runners aside from the ATM Grandmaster quest.

These are all minor gripes that can be easily adjusted by the race director if he is open to feedback. Mt. Talinis is one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve had the pleasure of climbing and it is sad that this miscommunication led to the runners not being able to summit it. The u-turn at Nailig lake is only 300m of climbing lower than the summit, so we were almost there.

Nevertheless, this was a run that I will definitely remember for a long time. Running the slopes of the giant volcano while being harrassed by rally-ists? Not every trail runner can say that they’ve experienced that! I’m not sure that I’ll be back for next year’s edition. I’m not sure that there will even be a next year’s edition. But if it can be coordinated well enough and all the patches are ironed out, this race is definitely in the running for the hardest trail race in Negros.

Acknowledgements

In closing, l want to thank all the people who made this experience possible.

First, to Papi Jonel and RD Rhodel for this opportunity. I am not a strong runner, but I can definitely put this experience into a lot of words. Thank you. Let us continue to promote trail running and fight the current stigma against our sport.

Next, to the locals, volunteers, marshals, and all the race personnel. Thank you for your efforts to keep us runners alive. To the locals of Negros Oriental who welcomed us with smiles and encouragement, madamo gid nga salamat.

To the usual trail people. Koi, Jeff, Lalai, Ayang, Tegurl, Kebs, Tim, Oppa, RL, and the others too many to mention. And also to the new friends made along the way, from Visayas and Mindanao. Congratulations to all of us!

To the kind people of Pyramid Wellness Center, for being our shelter for the days we spent in Valencia. Thank you, Charlie, for touring us around the place and for the local coffee. See you again! This place is a must-stay when you’re in Valencia.

To my Bebelabs. For pretty much everything aside from me running. Thank you for the extra-delicious and extra-heavy meals. For taking care of the logistics and all the schedules. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the race without you. And of course, for handling my “tantrums” when I wanted to quit and for being beside me all the way to the finish.

To my family and to Big G upstairs for the safe finish and the support. This was the best condition to run and I am glad the weather did not add to our suffering in this edition. Arigatou!

Mt. Talinis Mountain Ultra Marathon is, without a doubt, a challenge. Whether it’s a fun challenge or not, is up to each runner. It was definitely a downhill one for me.

For those who ran or were part of the race, please take a little bit more time by rating the race based on your experience:

Every review helps to improve our sport here in PH. Thank you for reading!

With my partner || Pic by Charlie

Share the trails!

-jgzn

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