Posted in 21.0975 kilometers, 21k, fun run, half-marathon, places to run, running, running event, running locales, Uphill Run

A Splendid Suffering! (Splendido Sunset Run 2017)

20171216_161645~01
You know the saying “it’s all downhill from here” can have a positive or negative meaning depending on the usage? Well, here it starts with the positive, but once you get to the point that there is a very steep uphill in the distance, there’s your negative right there.

The best running events are found in areas away from the big cities. I learned this when I finally had enough of joining races with the same old locations (SM Mall of Asia, CCP Complex, BGC, etc.) and the same old route. This is why travelling to provincial areas and lesser known locales to run is a rewarding and memorable experience. When I heard about the Splendido Sunset Run series and its location, I already have a feeling that’s it’s going to be one of those “definitely worth it” kind of events. The series started as a fun run with 2.5k and 5k distances way back in 2010 and has added more distance categories including a half-marathon in the following years and a new Trio category this year which is team run for a group of 3.

Situated in the elevated grounds of the Tagaytay and Nasugbu border, it is known for its challenging terrain and with that in mind, I decided to join the 21k category to see if it is as good as advertised.

20171216_150057-01~01
Splendido main gate.
20171216_150246-01~01
A view of the starting line from afar.
20171216_150449-01~01
It was a cloudy day and very cold. Loving the weather.
20171216_151113-01~01
A view of Taal Volcano and Binintiang Malaki in the distanceas seen from the parking grounds of Tower 2.
20171216_151047-01~01
A view of the 1/3 of the route from Tower grounds.
20171216_151244-01
With my unreliable assistant XD
20171216_151805-01~01
The family building.
splendstrt
The starting line. Photo from Splendido facebook page.
20171216_160902-01
Just a before-the-race selfie. Nothing to see here.

After the pre-race dance warm-up, all categories started at the same time (4 pm, but 5 or more minutes late though). The first part of the race is pure downhill, it’s fun to go fast at this point because the downhill is so steep that even if you don’t speed up, you’re going unintentionally fast anyway. I just let my feet go without adding momentum because if I burn out a lot of stamina early, I’m gonna pay for it later. And I’m glad it did because at the end of the downhill, there’s a steep uphill climb that can be seen from a distance and this is where the running ends and the walking (for some runners) starts.

20171216_161643-01~01
Downhill Domination! See that hill in the distance? that’s our 1st U-turn.
splend1
Downhill Jam! Photo from Splendido facebook page.
20171216_162342-01~01
Approaching the uphill challenge.
20171216_162517-01~01
And here it is. Whoever said falling in love is hard on the knees have never ran a steep uphill.
20171216_162627-01~01
A view from the uphill U-turn. Big houses, the Golf course, and a lot of trees around you. It’s a very beautiful sight even at night.
20171216_162627~01
And to show you just how far it is from the starting line to this point. Down and Up the road.

After the U-turn, a part of the route requires us to turn right and down a curvy road. This is the toughest part of the road because the downhill and uphill is even steeper. It’s like the mountain roads you see in Initial D and where you go Ridge Racer but without the cars.

20171216_162733-01~01
I was taking photos while running downhill. It’s good to see that my smartphone’s camera is handling the shakiness of my hands and the bouncy motion of jogging.
20171216_162814-01~01
Yes, it’s another up and down road here.
20171216_162859-01~01
The leading 21k runner (Kenyan) and the other elite runners of the Trio category just behind him. Saw Richard Salano and Abril Rosas, two of the elite runners I met at the 2016 Laguna Phuket International Marathon.
20171216_163034-01~01
There’s a ranger/watch tower up ahead. Are there any wild animals here? Only saw cows.
20171216_163318~01
The Splendido Two Towers as seen from down below.
20171216_163323-01~01
Approaching the 2nd U-turn. The 2 foreigners probably thought I’m an instagram runner for stopping frequently and taking photos. Just doing it for my blog =)

The 2nd U-turn is where we get our first ribbon/marker. These markers serve as proof that runners passed by the check points to avoid cheating. This is very important because even with a timing chip, the sensor is only located at the start and finish line.

The way back at this point is harder because we are going back up and this area is the steepest of all segments of the route. At this point some of us, including the foreigners who are ahead me now, started walking. It reminds me of Sungay Road only shorter.

20171216_163806-01~01
Walkathon on the way up.

It doesn’t get any easier when I finally reached the main road again. Remember, it was a downhill before, now it’s payback time with another uphill battle. I was struggling even with a walk-jog method because most of my energy were burned out. Had it even just a straight flat road, it would’ve been easier to recover. I was in okay condition by the time I reached the mid-point Pocari Sweat aid station near Splendido main gate.

splend2
Tired, but happy. Enjoying the suffering so far =D Photo from Splendido facebook page.

It’s getting darker by the time I started running towards the 10 kilometer mark which is a U-turn in a downhill road near the main gate.

20171216_171104-01~01
The route to the 10th kilometer still have some uphill segments. Uphills and downhills here are as overrated as a Star Wars movie.
20171216_172202-01~01
Going back to complete the 2nd loop.
20171216_172217-01~01
The Splendido towers as seen from below.
20171216_172346-01~01
It’s a beautiful road combined with the close to nature environment and away from city pollution. The people living here are so lucky.

Then it started to rain as I run my way up and it intensified as I pass by the Pocari Sweat mid point station. The rain is refreshing and it helped me run continuously downhill and towards the uphill U-turn. Some parts of the road are dark and I was glad to have brought my trusty energizer headlamp (which is a mandatory requirement).

20171216_174641-01~01
Going up the hill again on a cold, rainy night. It’s very dark in this area, my smartphone’s camera used a high ISO setting, resulting to a grainy photo.
20171216_174753-01~01
Like I said, the view from this point is beautiful even at night.

I was told by the marshals to just go straight back to the main road and no need to go back down the curvy, mountain-like road. Too bad, I was anticipating a thrilling, scary pitch dark run with only the headlamp to guide me run on the curvy roads again. But, that would be dangerous especially on a rainy weather. I also thought that route be a few kilometers short if we don’t run there again. Turns out I’m wrong.

20171216_175618-01~01
One of the best looking house along the route. There are speakers outside with music playing.

I had a conversation with a runner who was there to pace with his wife. He told me that this is a really tough course, but elite runners have been showing up to compete every year. He also told me that Kenyans already won the Trio and 21k categories and there was at least one Kenyan who gave up. That is a testament to the difficulty of this race. The other runner then paced with his wife and I continued to run the last kilometers of the race. I still have to go down again to the last U-turn to get the 4th and last marker.

20171216_181352-01~01
Dark, lonely, and silent. Not much difference from my daily life, going to work.

The rain turned to drizzle in the last 2 kilometers. Not much to say, I was very tired, but i keep moving. I got the final black marker, the marshal from the U-turn congratulated me, and I moved by alternating walking on uphills and jogging on the short flats and downhills. I just kept going and surprised myself for finishing the race with a sub 2.5 time.

Screenshot_20171225-190347~01
To be honest, I was expecting a near 3 hours finish time when I felt burned out at the 6th kilometer. Surprised that I was able to make it to sub 2.5 hours. My Soleus GPS watch yielded 21.19 at 02:28:59 whilst Nike Run Club app had it at 02:29:17 with 21.32 km total distance (I was able to stop the app after I hit the Soleus watch). Official results here.
20171216_185602-01~01
Happy to have survived another tough challenge. Nice finisher shirt and medal too.

So, is Splendido Sunset Run a challenging race as advertised? does it live up to its “Are you tough enough?” slogan? the answer is a big YES, definitely. The uphills may not be as long or as steep as Sungay Road, but they are harder than Nuvali’s. I know because it’s my training grounds and I can run a half-marathon faster there. The alternating uphill-downhill terrain is stressful for even seasoned runners. Just think what it’s like for an automobile to go uphill and downhill, it puts so much stress to the engine that you have to shift to the lower gears to go up and then to the higher gears as you go down and repeating it several times also results to increased fuel consumption. Same thing with the human body, your breathing and stride is affected, and there’s a big chance of cramps and other injuries if not careful. In fact, on our way out of Splendido, our car stalled twice as I shift to 2nd gear, it can only climb at 1st gear. That’s how steep the uphills are because Splendido is already on an elevated location.

Splendido Sunset Run is one of those hidden gem type of running events. It’s not well-known to the running community. But, once you discover it, give it a shot, and experienced it, you might go back for more. My only complaint is that there’s no sunset, so it’s false advertising!…. just kidding, it’s the weather’s fault for being cloudy that day. But, I imagine that it could’ve been a perfect day if we could see the beautiful sun going down in the distance. It’s a running event so good that it’s already in my Top 3 races this year.

20171216_224804-01~01
Traffic was very bad at the time, it was very late at night, and I was still a bit dehydrated, but we still went out for a meal and drinks because it’s on the house, courtesy of friends. Thanks, peeps.
Posted in 25km, adventure, hiking, mountain trekking, obstacle run, running event, Trail run, trail running, trail shoe, trekking, Uphill Run

Pacific Coast Party Poopers! (Sandugo Pacific Coast Ultra 100)

20171203_080023-01~01
Well, it’s not as dirty as our minds.

On the first weekend of December, two Philippine outdoor gear brands are debuting their inaugural running events, Amihan’s 50k Ultramarathon and Sandugo’s Pacific Coast Ultra 100. The former is a road race and the latter is a trail run.  Although they’re different, it’s tough to choose which one to join especially knowing that both events will be good as they want to make an impression to the running community. I really want a trail run, but since the Sandugo event is over a hundred kilometers away (in General Nakar, Quezon) I was leaning towards the Amihan event because it’s much closer to home (Paseo De Santa Rosa is just 12 kilometers from our house). Fortunately, I was able to convince running buddies, Nelson and Demet to join me in the Sandugo event and the rest is history.

This is Nelson and Demet’s first 25-kilometer trail run, so I joined this race without PR in mind, just as their guide and my year-end leisure run. Demet is no stranger to races, he already joined numerous events including half-marathons and he is an active mountain hiker. As for Nelson, this is his first running event, and he did not train for this, he smokes a lot, and he’s not a mountain hiker. But, this guy is tough and strong, he’s like that unstoppable slasher flick villain who get’s hit a lot or seemingly defeated but still comes back to terrorize people. So, I believe these two first timers can do it, I know we can finish the race.

20171203_055654-01~01~01
Race briefing with the race director.
20171203_060228-01
The Pacific Coast Party Poopers are here!

The race started smoothly, we entered an uphill road leading to a small village. The first few kilometers were mostly road and we were able to run at a decent pace. Some parts of the route have some flood that was probably caused by rain the day before.

20171203_063200-01~01
Unlike the proton packs, crossing streams in a trail run is A-Ok.

A lot of the villagers are on the street watching us. It kinda makes you feel like a celebrity athlete or maybe they just think were crazy for signing up for this. I think it was somewhere between 4 and 6 kilometers when we finally hit the rough road. The dirt road is where the beach resorts are located and we can see the beaches as we pass by.

20171203_064746-01~01
Let’s rock!… the trails!
20171203_064841-01
While waiting for Demet to catch up.
20171203_070133-01~01
Another flooded area. This is the first time our shoes tasted mud.
20171203_070257-01~01
Approaching the 1st Aid station at Kilometer 7.
20171203_070406-01~01
And leaving the first Aid station.

The first 7 kilometers of the route was easy. The natives are very friendly, some cheer and can interact with jokes, and seeing the kids smiling and giving you high fives is a big morale boost. That’s the feel-good vibe that you don’t experience much in city races and mountain runs. Then we enter the first mountain pass were things go tougher.

20171203_070554-01~01
Things go uphill from here.
20171203_070639-01~01
A common misconception is that if you do a lot mountain hiking even if you’re not a runner, you’ll do fine in trail running. Most people find out how wrong they are the hard way.
20171203_070725-01~01
That muddy pathway.
20171203_070941-01~01
A different kind of streaming. It’s offline.
20171203_072121-01
It’s the mandatory groufie every time we rest.
20171203_072749-01~01
I shouldn’t be stopping frequently to take photos, especially on muddy, slippery, and uphill trails like this. But, I want to capture these guys’ moments on their first trail run.
20171203_072942-01~01
We reached this view deck with a nice view of the pacific ocean.
20171203_073014-01~01
Nelson doing his faux vlog for his fans and bashers. He’s pointing where our habal habal driver is waiting to pick us up and takes us to the finish line. kidding.
20171203_073056-01~01
We sure did take our time to goof around.

We spent too much time stopping, taking photos and having fun that several runners caught up with us. We had a chat with one of the guys and he said that there were 10 of them who took a wrong turn and got lost (and they still caught up with us). It started to rain and while we’re going down hill, Demet got tripped by a vine or something, got cramps, and we had to take a long break. We let the others pass by as we rest to make sure Demet recovers properly.

20171203_075133-01-01~01
This is a strange creature. Blending carefully to the environment by positioning himself to look like he’s taking a dump while holding a sports drink bottle to create the ultimate camouflage as it awaits its prey. According to legend, it’s a sub-species of the kapre, some say it’s a tikbalang in human form.
20171203_075136-01-01~01
At this point, participants are overtaking us easily.

It was a difficult path, but we had a lot of fun on the mountain trail. The rain stopped and things got a bit easier when we got to lower ground.

20171203_075952-01
Still Standing.
20171203_080140-01~01
Yes, it’s another stream. It’s as common here as road traffic is in the city. We get to wash our muddy shoes which is pointless since it’s gonna get muddy and dirty again soon.
20171203_080355-01-01~01
Quiet and calm environment. This is the time to go emo.
20171203_080953-01~01
A runner, Ella, joined us in our shenanigans.
20171203_081310-01~01
Rivers make me feel so emo.
20171203_081526-01-01~01
Nelson thanking his imaginary sponsors. Ella must be thinking what she has gotten into.
20171203_081559-01~01
City Life, Thug Life, here it’s Farm Life.
20171203_082905-01~01
Streams and Uphills are getting too overrated here, huh?

We did some short jogging, but we walked most of the time, sharing stories and the occasional random nonsense. The lady marshal from the 1st Aid station said the next one is on the 10th kilometer, but it seemed more. We finally saw Magsikap bridge and we got excited to take photos.

20171203_083150-01
This is just half a smile. A bit nervous because if my phone slips from my hand, the river below is the happy new owner of it.
20171203_083219-01~01
And this is what the river looks like.
20171203_083323-01~01
And the view to my left.
20171203_083414-01~01
And I asked Nelson to take my running action shot.
20171203_083544-01~01
One of Nelson’s spontaneous beast mode while eating at Aid station 2.

I have to say that the staff of aid station 2 are very accommodating. They would approach us even before we reach the station to get our bottles and they will refill it while we eat. I have not seen marshals and event staff this helpful since 2014’s Men’s Health Urbanathlon and this is a very big plus. Great job, guys.

After re-energizing ourselves, we started jogging with Nelson and Demet taking the lead for a few minutes then they slowed down and starting walking again. I paced with Ella and left them behind as we reach the part of the route with a view of the Pacific Ocean.

20171203_084538-01~01
It rained earlier, but this are is blessed with clear skies.
20171203_084613-01-01~01
There’s some children playing in the distance and a horse roaming freely and eating. Life is so simple and relaxing here.
20171203_084620-01~01
A hill over there.
20171203_084732-01~01
And they finally arrived. Way to take your time.

When Demet and Nelson finally arrived, we walked to reserve our stamina and because the sound of the waves and the cool wind creates a soothing, calming effect. Made us imagine how good it must feel resting and sleeping on a hammock. And it’s good that we took our time walking because the next part of the route contains a lot of uphills and downhills.

20171203_091237-01~01
One last view of the farmville before we head back to Magsikap Bridge.
20171203_091247-01~01
Seeing people walk slowly uphill looked like a scene from The Walking Dead.
20171203_091516-01~01
Then there’s the downhill rush.
20171203_092015-01~01
I don’t think this is the right time to ask Demet, “How’s it going?”
Sandugorush
The lord of Riverrun! Photo from Sandugo facebook page.
20171203_092447-01~01
There’s a hidden photographer in the wild. He’s the guy who took photos of us running on the stream.
20171203_092810-01~01
These adorable kids were watching us running. They’re so cute that Demet was charmed to give them a chocolate bar.

After the uphill and downhill jam, we reached the 2nd aid station again to refuel before we take the last 8 kilometers of the route (passing by Magsikap bridge and taking a right turn). It’s a very wide uphill dirt road and while it’s not as steep as Sungay Road it is still very challenging because of the continuous climb with no downhill segments and very little flat grounds.

20171203_093903-01~01
There’s a nice view of the ocean on the horizon and it’s also a reminder that we came all the way from there. And now…
20171203_094139-01~01
See that mountain range on the horizon? that’s where we’re going next.
20171203_100211-01~01
It’s hard to run up, attempts to do so feels like you are running in slow mo, like bullet time in The Matrix. And it feels like your knees are being hammered. Ella moved at her own pace this time as we really are just slowing her down with our frequents stops to rest.
20171203_100234-01~01
As Demet take a rest, I asked Nelson to take another running action shot of me running downhill.
20171203_100334-01
Just another rest stop groufie. I was the only one still in the mood to take photos though. It started to rain again at this point.
20171203_100839-01~01
Nelson looking for and attempts to communicate with forest creatures in the same way Aquaman talks to fish. Kidding. There’s a nice flowing water stream on the side of the dirt road.
20171203_100851-01~01
Just over a hundred meters from the previous rest stop, we had to stop and rest again and a bit longer as Demet starts to feel pain on his side, around the rib cage area.
20171203_101506-01~01-01
I was surprised by the sound of a hawk hovering around us. It sounds bad-ass and screams with authoritah!!! I was astonished because it’s the first time I saw a hawk outside a zoo and I thought it was an eagle at first. I wonder what we look like in bird’s eye.
20171203_102551-01~01
Came across another view deck. Reminding us the hardship we’ve been through and to keep going.
20171203_102702-01
This is our last long rest stop. The sun is up and the heat is on, but we decided to keep walking no matter how slow.

The last 4 kilometers is just pure nonstop hike and it started to get hot hot hot. We experienced mud, rain, and now the heat. It’s the complete package. It was a silent walk due to exhaustion and Nelson and Demet lost the hyperactive goofiness they had earlier. We caught up with a couple runner and had a achat with the guy who said he joined the 1st Sandugo Brusko Mountain Bike Race 3 months ago and he said that the event had something better, they have buko juice in the Aid Stations and you can fill up the bladder of a hydration pack. That is definitely a big plus.

Nelson all of a sudden found the energy to run downhill in the last 2 kilometers of the route. I excused myself to Demet and the couple to run and catch him. Found him resting on a shade and we waited for Demet. I told them that we should go for a sprint to the finish in the last 500 meters and I will make way for them so they can cross the finish line first. Demet said the we should all just cross it together. So, we reached the last 500 meters and we saw some runners ahead, some are limping and another guy was very exhausted. Neither Nelson nor Demet initiated a sprint so I just stayed with them as originally planned. When Nelson started to jog on the last 100 meters, I ran by his side expecting Demet to do the same. But, he walked and I let Nelson get the medal first before I did because it’s his first trail run and he earned it. We all finished at 5 hours and 39 minutes (official race results here). Not bad for my first timer running buddies.

20171203_114758-01~01
First running event. No training. Never hiked on a mountain. A heavy smoker. And he had a shots of Red Label Whiskey the night before the race. Gotta give props to this tough beast.
20171203_114704-01~01
Mission Accomplished for me in guiding the two first time trail runners.
20171203_114641-01~01
Now a certified trail runner. Demet has ascended the fun run and hiking level. Congratulations.
20171203_120622-01
We kicked ass and got our asses kicked, but we survived and finish the race and kicked back that ass.

Sandugo Pacific Coast Ultra 100 Trail Run is a great event. I enjoyed it so much because it had all the things I like in a running event, a scenic route, a good challenge, and a reasonable registration fee. I’m a big skeptic of running event registration fees these days, the price increase (compared to the previous years) is too much even in short distance fun runs and you’re not getting your hard-earned money’s worth. That is not the case with this Sandugo event. For 1,500 php, you get an event shirt, a Basekamp trucker cap, a Mountain Series headwear, a bottle holder strap, and Sandugo socks all contained in a nice sling bag. But wait, there’s more! You also get a free shuttle ride from the Manila and South area to General Nakar, Quezon. There also a place to stay in, it’s a school manned by the school staff and they’re very friendly and helpful, and there’s a pick up truck to take the runners from the school to the event area. And their staff and marshals are the most helpful I’ve seen in awhile. So many things done right in this event.

But, it’s not perfect. There are some minor things that would be nice if improved on the next event. First is the medal, it looks good, but the only thing that indicates the distance is the lanyard. It would be better to see it on the medal itself or maybe a size difference for the distance categories to make them easily distinguishable. The lack of a finisher shirt is the biggest flaw of the race. Most people would prefer a finisher shirt over an event shirt because it’s the bragging rights that runners love to wear. This is especially important to the first timers like my running buddies. Too bad for Nelson not having a finisher shirt to wear to the office to show off to our other office mate runners. A very minor complaint would be the post race meal, some of us late finishers didn’t get much and distribution is a bit slow.

All the flaws aside, this run has most memorable experience for me this year and one of the most fun. I have 2 more running events coming up, but in my mind it’s already the best running event I joined in 2017. It’s just that good. Kudos to the event organizer and staff, you did a very good job and I hope that it stays the same (even better with improvements like the addition of a finisher shirt) in next year’s event.

IMG_20171203_221828_241
The only thing missing in this generous race kit is running shorts.