November 10, 2019
Every race is unique and none are equal. They may cover the same route or distance, but they are rarely experienced the same way twice. And every once in a while, we runners experience a special race that leaves a lasting impression on us. The 2019 edition of the Amihan 50 Trail Ultra is one such race. And here are the reasons why…
This is the 3rd Edition of the said race. The first edition was a road ultramarathon held in Tagaytay. The second edition was held in Baguio and it shifted into the trails there. I also pitched in to do some design work for that said race, which led to manager Jose giving me this early Christmas gift of an entry to this edition with bebelabs. This time, the race will be held in the trails of Bataan, around the Shrine of Valor and Mt. Samat.
The problem was, I had already stopped running after the Masskara Marathon which took place in mid-October. So I had only a week before the race to cram some training in. I did a few runs and left the rest to stock knowledge and muscle memory. In the words of the great Tim Tollefson, “it is better to be 10% undertrained than 5% overtrained.”
We arrived at the race village at the foot of the hill of Mt. Samat. It is one of the famous landmarks in Bataan and I’ve already blogged about being here before! It was fully transformed into a running mecca and I was surprised by the sheer number of runners. The ambiance really got my adrenaline pumping once more. We got our race kits and said our hi’s and hello’s to the familiar faces of the trail running community. Then, we made our final preparations and waited for the gunstart.
At exactly 1am, the 50km runners – that’s us – all started to run the long downhill road from the Mt. Samat shrine and into the trails of Pilar, Bataan. It wasn’t long before we reached the first Aid station and the start of the trail-head. I swallowed a couple of brownies and cakes before refilling my hydration and entered the trail. We were welcomed by multiple creeks and rivers as well as the copious amount of mud. It had been raining the few days before, but we were glad to be dealing with just the aftereffects. We slid up and down rolling hills until the second aid station.
AS2 was filled with the same goodies as AS1 but before I stocked my tummy full, we had a short turnaround near the Tekip falls. There, the marshal (Asia Trail Master Grandmaster Alfie) marked our bibs and scanned our bracelets before going back to the station. After eating a lot of salted cakes, we were on our way back to AS1. First half of the race almost done, and I still wasn’t having any tantrums!
Back at AS1, I stocked up on supplies once again before continuing the next segment of the route which was a long climb up to the highest point of the race. The morning sun was already up, but thankfully it wasn’t scorching to the skin. Slowly and surely I made my way up the slopes until we passed the highest point. We were shown the surrounding hills of Bataan and they reminded me of something like a local New Zealand. There was just farmlands and untouched mountainsides as far as I can see. Then, it was a long long long downhill all the way to Aid Station 3 (Batangas AS).
At AS3, Ms. Cheryl was among the crew assisting the runners. Ms. Cheryl is a multi-awarded trail runner and this race was actually born from her training route. Simply put, this race route is her playground. Now I know how she got so strong. Anyway, back at the station, I filled myself with watermelon, lugaw and some more sweet cakes. I had to will myself away from the station and its food because I wanted to finish ASAP.
It was a few more kilometers of muddy forest trails and farmlands before the next aid station which was near the waterfalls. There, I took a bathroom break and watched as locals, tourists, and runners alike fell in line to get a photo with the waterfalls.
After having my picture taken, it was off to the last 8 kilometers of the race. There, we crossed some more rivers and hopped along rocks until we reached the toughest challenge yet. It was an insanely steep climb that didn’t seem to end. With every turn, it just kept getting steeper and steeper. Race Director Noy called it the “shortcut” and it made me wish I took the long cut instead. But thankfully, at the end of that climb was an aid station with COLD soft drinks and water. There, I bathed myself with coolness before heading to the downhill section that returned the runners to the road that led up to the Mt. Samat shrine. Home stretch!
The road was long and winding, but with my Ortigas upbringing, I brisk walked past a lot of runners on the way up. I was blessed with some familiar faces to talk to on the way, so it wasn’t as mind-numbing as other races. Eventually, we all made it up to the shrine and at the base of the giant cross. There, we were directed to go down the winding path and into the finish line. I waited a bit for bebelabs to catch up and finally, we crossed the finish hand in hand. Wuhooo! Another ultramarathon in the bag!
After the finish, we quickly fell in line at the only washing area before waiting for the awarding. Bebelabs was fast enough to get the top 5 spot for the female category! While waiting, I talked to some friends and we shared our trail experiences with each other. We also encouraged the runners who were still climbing their way to the cross.
After the awarding, we said our goodbyes to the community and went on our way back to the metro. I slept most of the way, as usual.
A. Finish < 10 hours – ✅
B. Finish < 12 hours – ✅
C. Finish Within Cutoff – ✅
Race: Amihan 50 Trail Ultra Bataan
Finish: 09:53:21 (58/203 runners)
Food: [Self] Beng Beng x5, Cloud 9 Choco Fudge x5, Clif Bar x1, H2O, Vitamin Boost
[Aid Stations] H2O, Lugaw, Soft Drinks, Vitargo, Brownies, Cakes, Salt, Chips, Watermelon, Eggs, etc.
Gear: Kalenji Gilet Trail 5L, Kalenji Socks, New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v4, Shake Hands Bottle, Lazada Goodr Glasses, Amazfit Stratos
It’s now time to thank the people who made this event a success.
Firstly, thank you to Jose, sir Jeff, Noy, Ms. Cheryl, Melanie, and the other members of the Amihan team for this opportunity. Congratulations on a job well done and for providing an amazing race at the latter part of the year. It was certainly a challenging route, but you did all you can to provide a pleasant experience for the participants. All we had to do was run.
Next, to bebelabs for the push and for arranging our transportation with AMCI. Thanks for dealing with me through my tantrums before the race and for convincing me to join without much training. Thank you also for joining me in the crammed training days. You are the best support I can have.
Thank you also to all the trail friends, old and new, that I met along the route. To those I paced with and passed by, congratulations! We put ourselves out there and the mountains gave us permission to play. You are all my idols.
To the photographers and marshals along the route that provided us with our needs. Robert of Active Pinas, Calvin of CN Creatives, and the others I have not yet been acquainted with. Team Malditah and the other volunteers for taking care of us pre-race and post-race. Thank you for your service!
Of course to the Big Guy for keeping us all safe as we were out there playing. You gave us such a good weather all day and I am thankful for the suffering I didn’t experience. Everything for Your greater glory. And to my family for understanding this sport I have chosen and for not being against my absent weekends and fast-paced life. I love you all!
If there was a single word to describe this race, it would be: SMOOTH. This is a model race that others can follow. In terms of route marking, there were no problems at all. Markers were aplenty and never did I feel insecure along the race route. If I did miss a turn, I quickly backtracked and found the right way again. Food in the aid stations were bountiful and varied. They also provided Vitargo in some points which is a good marketing strategy for the brand as well. The freebies on registration were very generous and probably the biggest draw to the race. I checked my other friends’ experiences and they were also pleased with how the race was handled.
Still, there’s no perfect race and there were some issues regarding the lead pack. But they were managed quickly and to the best that the situation called for. So props to the organizers for this quick reaction and for upholding fairness and sportsmanship in the event. They even released a statement so quickly regarding the tiny hiccups in the race. This is something race organizers should practice: accountability. Team Amihan has my respect. This is truly a race by runners, for runners.
I was apprehensive about joining this race with short notice, but I’m glad I did. This is one of the best races in Manila and I’m looking forward to their next edition.
If you’ve reached this point and also ran the race, please review it through the button below if you have the time:
No training, no problem! (Do not try this at home)