It's the first time that I got myself into three trail races in a row, and it was my second mountain run / climb for this year - the Salomon XTrail Pilipinas Run, held in Tagaytay Highlands. I did not really plan nor it came across to my mind that I will be battling more trail runs just for the first quarter of 2012, and not just ordinary trail running, but elevated/altitude trail runs it is.
|Salomon Race Shirt|
It was foggy when we arrived at the Highlands past 4:00AM, but those fogs were absent at the Midlands where the starting/finish area is. The gun-start for our category was at 5:30AM, enough for me to change into my running gear and get some light warm-up only as my body was still too lazy to move.
I positioned myself at the back of the pack with other colleagues but when the gun-start was fired, I remembered that the entrance to the trail was narrow so I sped up just to gain some distance and avoid the early traffic of the trails. The first part of the race was the same road that we took during the test run and after around more than a kilometer, it was already a series of trail ascents and descents.
|Kuya BhoyRunner'sRunner at the starting line (photo by JazzRunner)|
The "happiest" part of the route was the trails going up to the mountain ridges and slope towards the Belle View Condominiums. It was a rocky, steep, and narrow climb that started near Madre De Dios Church. It was here that those ropes became useful, and the wishful running towards the U-turn became utterly useless. Mountain run? Most of us wasn't able to run the ascent, save for a very few thrifty jogs whenever there's some 3-5 meters of descent or flats. Walk, jump, climb - that was the trick of the game from this moment on that spanned around more or less a kilometer before reaching the peak.
At the peak, the view that greeted us was very relaxing, overlooking the trees, the neighborhood below, and most specially the Taal lake. The air was fresh and soothing. Looking at my watch, it was just at 13.85km mark. After the relaxing moment on top, as the saying goes, what goes up, goes down. Going down would've been much easier if not for the loose soil and rocks, slippery mud and leaves, and the steep descents that still requires the use of rope. On some parts, it is much wiser to just jump through and avoid the mud and loose rocks instead of slowly stepping on them as it would just make it erode more. Though it requires confidence and making sure that where you will be landing next is also safe, with strong balance, and a conserved agility that will help you regain your momentum should you lose your balance.
Still, mother nature has a lot of surprises however you plan or try to keep yourself sound and safe as was manifested on the mishap that happened to me. I was treading carefully at some point in the middle going down from the peak when I didn't notice that there was a sturdy vine where I tripped over. My hands immediately moved from my side to the front, ready to hold the position so as not to lie face down on the ground. My face was saved but, my left knee solidly hit a rock. I turned over and sat at the side, but my left leg seemed that it suddenly lost its strength, making my calves to also hit the same rock where I bumped my knee. At this point, my calves turned berserk into a rampaging ache of cramps that even my arms can't firmly press against it.
|Injuries like these are priceless!|
When we have finally descended and reached the roads, I thought I could already run much better. The cramping was gone but my left calf muscle is still aching due to the hard-bump with the rock. I was a bit limping, and my left leg would lost its balance on each of my stride. Mid-footing with the knee slightly bent as I run wouldn't seem to help. I have to make my left knee stiff (slightly locked) so as not to lose control of my forward balance. My pace became much slower than during the first 10km due to this injury. At some point on the road, a slight cramp would knock at my left calf specially when going down that I have to slow down more or walk just to relax and keep me going instead of stopping.
Upon reaching the last two hydration stop where our 6.5K test run has ended, I sat down on the bermuda grass to relax my lower back which started aching already. Took some legs, calves, and back stretching, re-filled my hydrations, then took off for the final, grueling, uphill road assault. It was around 2 kilometers of challenging ascent which even the vehicles are having a hard time going up. I wasn't able to run any part of this ascent. At this point, my eyes started to ask for a sleep that whenever I see some green grass on the road side, it seemed to me that it is a soft bed, inviting me to put my whole body to rest. I badly needed a sleep!
Finally at the top of the road, just a few hundred meters away from the Peak bar (the highest point), the last hydration stop was still waiting for us. The remaining distance towards the finish line from here was about more or less 2 kilometers of pure downhill. It's time to run and finally end the race. I was about to go full speed when my left calf cramped once again. Running fast was not possible so I just jogged and slowly increased my pace and slowed down again whenever I cramp. It was only at the last 400 meters towards the finish line that I was able to speed up as I became excited upon hearing the voice of the program hosts.
|Sprinting down towards the finish (photo captured by VVLF)|
|Finally taking my nap, CJ may panahon ka rin =)|
Reaching home, I immediately put my things away, removed my clothes, washed my body, and took another few hours of sleep. When I woke up, my knee was aching and it was only then that I noticed the wound on my left knee. Up until now, my left leg is shaking when going down the stairs, I feel some knee pains when bending my leg, and I can't stand longer than 30minutes as my left calf would numb. I haven't tried running yet though to see what other pains I would feel.
Salomon XTrail came second as the hardest trail route I've ran to, next to the previously held Mt. Ugo Skyrun last February 18 in Itogon, Benguet. During our previous test run for this race, I didn't expect that there will be a lot more, more, more surprises awaiting us on the actual race, specially the number of ropes and loose rocks! I didn't even think that the elevation of around 2,000 feet will be very much challenging. I did read the technical details of the 24k route but I have not absorbed those details until I get to actually experience them. Indeed, this race made a great mark on my trail running experiences.
|(Photo thanks to CJ)|
Distance: 24.4 km.
Official Time: 03:51:36
Official Ranking: 97th
When: Mar. 31, 2012.
Where: Tagaytay Highlands and Midlands Resort
Event: Salomon XTrail Pilipinas Run 2012
Race Results are available at Runningmate.ph