As a trail runner, I know that running off the beaten path can get you wet, wild, and dirty. But, for the first time, I experienced getting sucked… a lot… by limatiks (leeches).
I joined Nuun Dirt School Level 3 for the opportunity to finally climb Mount Makiling and to learn more about advanced trail running. And what an experience it was.
My excitement for the event is higher than the mountain itself. But, unfortunately, a day before the event, while waiting for my shift to end, I decided to browse the internet for some information about limatiks (which is known to be a regular resident of the mountain) to know what I’m up against. Big mistake, I saw images and read about limatiks getting in your eyes, ears, and nose. I was horrified, thoughts of it getting inside me (giggity) got me worried so much that I went to Decathlon to search for some protection that is not made of latex rubber (giggity giggity). I was thinking of getting earplugs and goggles, but I ended up purchasing a Kalenji leggings worth 500 pesos (because I think I can use it often).
At the day of the event, I was having both emotions of excitement and uneasiness as the thought of limatiks going down on me like ninjas was still in my mind. UP Los Banos is only 19+ kilometers away, I left home at 5:35 am and arrived before 6:30 am. I was one of the earliest to arrive, so I had some time to rest and prepare.
The session started with Ms. Carina Dayondon, one of the 3 Filipinas who traversed Mount Everest, sharing her inspirational stories. It was then followed by lessons from the meister himself, Coach Miguel “Ige” Lopez.
The actual trail run started around 8 am, beginning with a power walk to the Makiling Trail Entry Point.
The Nuun Dirt-schoolers are divided into groups in accordance to their fitness level. Four runners led the group, including Mr. Mike Baldwin, a 59-year old man who plans to run a 60k Ultramarathon for his 60th birthday. They moved real fast and were out of sight. I buddied up with Sonny, a runner I met earlier before the start of the class and we’re the 2nd placers, moving at an alternating walk pace for uphill and jogging pace for the downhill.
We slowed down and rest to wait for the others because the leading group already reached vanishing point and we’re not sure if we should head straight or take a left turn to the mud spring trail. Pace Group 3 joined us, with coach George, a seasoned trail ultramarathoner and mountain hero, leading the way.
We rested at Agila Base as we wait for the others to arrive. I don’t feel tired, but very thirsty, so I fueled up with some cold Nuun drink.
After the 16-minute break at Agila Base, we proceeded to the main event, the trail ascending to Peak 2. Sonny, Bling Runner, and I led the group.
With Sonny leading the way, we stopped in the area that have 2 branching paths. We’re not sure which path to take, so we waited for Bling to take a look. We took the left path, but Bling was unsure, so we head back and took the right. We found the Station 15 sign on a tree. We’re on the right path now. I was leading the group and running until I was pulled back and stopped by a leaf that have hidden thorns on it. It scratched my favorite Team 7-Eleven Philippines ASICS shirt and I pulled some thorns out of my right shoulder. Now knowing that the flora here is different from the other mountains I hiked and can be dangerous, I let Bling lead the way. And I’m glad I did, because she spotted a snake in the plants beside the trail. I was just a few meters away from her and I signaled Sonny to pause for a moment. I saw the plants moving as the snake slither through, moving up and away from the trail. I was having 2nd thoughts in pushing through this, but I just keep moving without looking on my left where the snake was. We finally reached Station 22, which is suppose to be a camp site, but it’s not an ideal one because it is limatik territory.
Another long rest as we wait for the others. Had my first encounter with limatiks here and I feel grossed out. George once again takes lead as we ascend the difficult part of the trail. The leading pace group was already descending as we make our way up. Stations 23-30 is really difficult, there are several times that I stop to breathe and recover.
After eating and the much needed rest and chit chat, it was time to go down. I was the last to exit because I decided to take some photos. George let me pass as he took the role of a sweeper. Another Dirt-Schooler arrived and was on his way to peak 2. He was late, but he got there fast.
Unfortunately, due to my stupidity of stopping frequently to take photos, thereby limiting my ability to stay focus on my surroundings, I slipped and fell hard to the ground. I even saw the cramp go up my left calf and a lump appeared. At first, I though it was a full grown leech, but after a few minutes, I touched it and it dissolved like a water bag losing water. Vic, one of the Dirt-schoolers, saw me go down and stayed with me as I recover. After a few minutes, I stood up and moved slowly, with my right leg initiating movement and my left leg just for support. I used trees and tree roots to help me descend to Station 22 since I feel like I’m only using one leg. When I finally arrived, some of my Dirt-School classmates helped me in cleaning and patching up a bruise on my left knee (which cut and ruined my newly-bought Kalenji legging) by providing a cleaning cloth and band aid. George and Enrique arrived and we decided to move again. Due to the painful calf, I never tried to run again and moved at hiking pace. Enrique was also suffering from cramps and the 3 of us were the last group. We shared our running stories and opinions about the running scene to make the trip feel faster and to distract ourselves from the pain. We ate and rest to replenish ourselves for a few minutes at Agila Base before continuing to the road back to Botanic Gardens.
Enrique and I decided to jog downhill for a little boost and George told us to go ahead, he’ll catch up later.
We caught up with Magzi, Bling, Sonny, and another participant at the lomi and buko juice store. We decided to stop by and drink some buko juice (thanks Enrique). Then we excused ourselves and decided to move on since we’re injured and the others may likely catch up with us on the way down.
With no one in sight, Enrique and I pushed all the way to Botanic Gardens. When we arrived, the other Dirt-schoolers already left. Somebody already won the highly sought after Suunto watch.
It was an awesome experience, I got injured but it felt hardcore (like the time I tripped and bruised my knees badly whilst avoiding zombies in Outbreak Missions). Had a down and dirty good time, and limatiks sucks!… literally. Looking forward to next year’s sessions. I might join all of them especially the first semester in Nuvali.
In the early days, runners use the stopwatch feature of their watches to check their Finish Time and it is assumed that the distance of the race route is accurately measured by the event organizers. Today’s generation of runners rely on the GPS functionality of smartphones and watches making it an essential feature. But, how accurate are the GPS of these devices? are they reliable?
I am not an electronics expert or engineer, I don’t know how GPS works technically, so don’t expect me to explain everything with scientific detail. I’m just a runner who relies on my GPS watch and smartphone app to record my performance and this observation and analysis is based on my experience in using them during training runs and running events. I use a Soleus GPS One watch and Samsung S7 Edge for tracking my runs.
Which is more accurate, a GPS watch or a smartphone app?
– Starting both devices and standing still, my S7 Edge using Nike Run Club app connects faster to GPS satellites than my GPS One. It usually takes less than a minute for the S7 to get a good signal, whilst the GPS One can take as long as 1-3 minutes to find a signal. The GPS One may also receive an unstable connection and deliver very unbelievable results like a running speed of 40-70 kilometers per hour which is impossible considering that Usain Bolt can run at a top speed of 44 km/h. The GPS One also has a tendency to lose signal in places where only a few tall buildings surround the area. There are times that the GPS One can yield better results than the smartphone like the time I ran the 2nd Philippine Marine Corp Marathon. When I entered the famous Kaybiang Tunnel, both devices lost connection, but the watch re-connected faster and delivered a more accurate distance. It should be noted that I was using a mid-range smartphone at the time, an Alcatel Flash 2, and not the S7 Edge that I’m using now. I mentioned this because high-end smartphones and GPS watches with superior hardware may be able to deliver more accurate results than entry-level like the GPS One and mid-range devices.
UPDATE (07-23-2017): I accidentally activated the mobile data of my S7 Edge instead of the GPS. Nike Run Club app relied on internet connection and due to the weak signal and speed, it resulted to a big miscalculation, counting 600-800 meters as 1 kilometer.
– Distance discrepancy between the two devices is not unusual. Sometimes it can be as short as 100 meters to as long as 2 kilometers with the GPS watch very likely to be inaccurate. One example of this was during Run United Exceed half-marathon last April, GPS One recorded the total distance of 23.45 kilometers, whilst the S7 showed 22.5 kilometers. The race route in Bonifacio Global City is surrounded by tall buildings and locking on to the satellites takes time, but I was able to get a signal for both devices before the gunstart. But, I’m very sure that the GPS One was inaccurate because it showed me that I passed the first kilometer in 4+ minutes whilst the smartphone app told me that I ran it at 5 minutes and 45 seconds. I’ve also seen social media posts from runners and most of them also covered 22+ kilometers. Others got results of less than 21 kilometers, but it’s very likely that they started their devices while it was still trying to get a signal and only got one after several kilometers (i.e. 18 kilometers of total distance was likely the result the device receiving a signal after 3 kilometers of running). During my usual Wednesday and Friday morning runs, it’s often that I get distance discrepancies and most of the time, the GPS One delivered inaccuracy.
GPS devices or just trust the Organizer’s Race Route?
I did an experiment to compare if the distance displayed on a car’s odometer will yield the same or close results with the GPS devices. I did a quick google search and found out that GPS is much more accurate than car speedometers when it comes to measuring speed because it is affected by tire size and condition. But, I’m measuring the distance and disregarded speed, so we focus on the odometer. Stopping the car at 1, 3, and 5 kilometers, the distance difference is somewhere between 30 to 200+ meters.
This experiment should be taken with a grain of salt since gps reading is affected by the position and availability of the satellites (take note that the experiment took place on a road devoid of tall buildings). It’s likely that distance discrepancy will increase if I travelled farther.
The verdict: Accurate or Fu*k-urate?
– So, are GPS devices like smartphones and GPS watches accurate when it comes to measuring distance and pace? the answer is yes… but, only if you get a good and stable signal. The advance technology in these devices assures you accuracy, but not always. There will be times that you will get unstable signal and even lose the signal especially in places surrounded by tall building or trees and that guarantees fu*ked up results. The reason why I use both a GPS watch and smartphone app is for cases when one fails, the other won’t (hopefully). A small distance discrepancy (like 100-300 meters) between both devices is acceptable, 500 meters or more is where you start to question accuracy and pick the one with less distance. In my usual training routes, I can tell which one is giving me the likely accurate distance because of the numerous times I ran on that place. Even if that devices failed to connect with the satellites, I remember where the kilometer points are.
If there is something I like to do that involves getting wet, wild, and dirty without looking or sounding like a pervert, it’s trail running. It is more than just hiking at a faster pace, it’s a thrill ride, an adventure. Imagine yourself running alone at 3 am, just trees and grass all around you, your feet stomping the soft and muddy ground, that eerie silence, and the cool wind blowing your face as you run through the darkness with nothing but your headlamp to guide you. That’s the kind of thrill you don’t get from road running. This is why Valley Trail Challenge is one of my highly anticipated running events every year.
This is my 2nd time in joining VTC, and this year’s event should’ve been my first trail ultramarathon, but unfortunately due to limited budget (August is my hiatus in the running scene due to financial reasons) plus the registration fee increase (last year, the 50k category fee was 1,500 php, this year it’s 2,000 php), and the registration deadline (August 12 was the last day of registration, payday was on the 15th), I decided to join the 25k category instead. It’s better that than nothing, and although last year’s mid-distance category was 30k (+2 extra kilometers), I’m sure the total distance will be more than that. Initially, I feel a bit disappointed for not being able to join the 50k category, but come to think of it, aside from the insufficient funds, I also don’t have trail shoes and a running vest, so thinking more about those things made me feel okay and just accept it. There’s always a next year.
Excited to run my 2nd full trail run, I went to Antel Platinum Tower, home of Frontrunner Magazine, to pick up my race kit on the 2nd day of distribution. I got the kit, but the bib number was missing. I asked the personnel in charge, and the guard told me (after phoning it) that the bib numbers will be distributed on the day of the event.
Though I was on leave the day before the event, I wasn’t able to get a complete sleep, but I had a good rest. I left home before 1 am because the assembly time was 2 am and the gun start at 3.
After I got my bib, the race director, sir Jonel Mendoza, announced that the gun start for our category is 4 am, not 3 am as indicated on the website and posters. A bit bummed because I came early and there’s more than a couple of hours to spare. I tried to sleep in the car, but I can’t because of the excitement. It rained a bit and after that, I decided to just walk around East Nature Avenue to kill time and warm me up.
It started to rain again, so I went to the starting area 30 minutes before gun start. The race director made the announcements regarding the race course, rules, and he frequently insist that there are no uphills (or UpHells) and downhills (DownHells) on the course. With a comedic tone, he kept on reminding us not to talk (or whine) about it on facebook. There are no uphills. Period. (Excluding the uphill on the Nuvali Boulevard Rotunda, I recall from last year’s run that there are some minor uphills on the trails).
He also told us that they’re feeling a bit generous and added a few kilometers of distance, free of charge and they extended the cutoff time to 7 hours so everybody has a chance to make it. I expected that because the organizer always do this so the runners can enjoy the view along the New Zealand trail.
The race started smoothly, the rain stopped momentarily, and it was cold. The trail was very muddy and slippery, but the trail markers are very visible this time (last year, we got lost within the 1st kilometer). The first 4 kilometers of the route is the same as last year, with some slightly different and longer path on the trail section. The first aid station was located near the Xavier trail head (last year’s aid station was closer to the security check point). Banana cakes, Kalamay (it looked like kalamay to me), lemonade, water, and bananas were served (last year’s event had more fruits and sweets). I fueled up before heading to the Xavier trail. I started to play music as a distraction to the dead silence and to boost my run. From kilometer 5 to 8, I was on pace with 3 other runners. We were in the middle of the pack as the leading runners are kilometers ahead and the slower ones were kilometers behind of us. I was left behind some time after kilometer 8 when I slowed down and started taking photos.
At 5:20 am, it was still dark, the sign of another rain coming. After passing the Camp N and the Bird and Wildlife Sanctuary trails, the route was slightly different from last year, there’s a long stretch of uphill. Surprise, surprise.
I asked the nice guard if I’m near the turning point, he couldn’t speak at first and just smiled, giving me the signal that it’s still far. I walked the long uphill stretch to regain my stamina.
The next part of the route going to the New Zealand trail was familiar to me. At that time, I was running alone, and occasionally crossed paths with the leading runners going back to the finish line.
While walking in th New Zealand trail, I had a conversation with another runner who was wearing a Vibram Treksport. I asked her if she was having blisters by using it. She said no and she’s used to running with Vibrams. I planned to use my Treksport for this route, but I still get blisters and have not fully adapt to it for running.
It rained again while I was hiking the New Zealand trail. It was cool and all, but my smartphone is not water resistant. This is a different experience from last year’s event which presented us with a nice view of the sunrise and enjoyed the beautiful, warm morning. This year, it’s a cool and cloudy morning, but it’s still good if you like running in the rain.
When I finally reached the 2nd aid station and turning point, I was already exhausted. I think my pace is slower compared to last year’s run. While resting and re-hydrating, it rained again, heavy rain this time, and that was my cue to go.
Going back was easier, it’s day time and you can see everything. But, too much mud on the ground offers a new challenge for the trail runners. There were numerous times when I almost slip and almost tripped by grass.
Exiting the Camp N trail and approaching the Xavier trail seems near, yet so far. Just 8 kilometers to go said the cheering marshals. By this time, I do the fartlek style of walking and jogging. Can’t run anymore, too tired.
Passed by some of the 16k runners at the Xavier trails. When I reached aid station 1, it was restocked with more food including Cloud 9 chocolates and Gatorade. I reloaded hard before moving again. I would rather be on the go with a full stomach than feel hungry and weak. I also don’t have the intention to finish fast, I prefer a slow pace whilst enjoying the trails. Walking up the rotunda, I’m very tired and feel some pain, but I’m smiling because I feel good despite the exhaustion. A kid even gave me a high five while walking. The only time I had a boost was when I run downhill exiting the rotunda and going back to the last 2 kilometers of trails near Abrio.
In the last kilometer, I passed by an old man and his companion. Found out after the race that he’s 74 years old and finished a rainy and muddy trail run. Two thumbs up for his effort and awesome achievement. This part of the trail is also the muddiest, I don’t mind the mud, I just feel bad about my shoes. It’s being tested beyond its limit and I only have low mileage on it (less than 200 km).
Finally, we’re back on the road again, the last 400 meters to the finish line. I continued the walk-jog routine and not in a rush to finish. I still have gas in me to run the last hundred meters, but I just decided to take it easy and walk with a final jog to the finish line.
I had another great time. It was almost the same race and route as last year, but the rain and the muddy tracks offered a different experience. And it’s a trail run, I prefer trail running than road running because I have more fun and feel more relaxed running the trails. Congratulations to Frontrunner for hosting another excellent event. Looking forward to finally running 50k next year.
Special Thanks to Active Pinas, the official photographer, for the awesome photos. You can check out and ‘like’ their facebook page here: Active Pinas on Facebook and Pinoy Trails, for some of the Finish line photos, check and like their page here: Pinoy Trails on Facebook
Men’s Health Urbanathlon and Festival 2014 was my 2nd favorite running even last year. When the 2015 edition was announced carrying the ‘Survival of the Fittest’ name from the international version of the popular obstacle run, I got even more excited and immediately considered this among my top priority runs this year. Unfortunately, due to complicated in-store registration (because I don’t like online registration and have never joined a running event that way), I wasn’t able to join the run. The problem was the in-store registration, I have no idea why Men’s Health didn’t have registration sites in Chris Sports (which was a major sponsor) branches. Instead, they offer registration in Crossfit MNL, Functional Fitness, VXi and JTI offices. It confused me because I’m not familiar with the locations of the sites and when I asked questions on Men’s Health Philippines and Leadpack (the race organizer) facebook pages, I get no responses (worth noting that anyone who asks get no responses and their posts have fewer than 10 likes, so it’s likely that they don’t bother responding. One exception was my inquiry for the possibility of an event day, on-site registration, which they said was not possible). Registration in ASICS store in Greenbelt was opened on November 11 – 20, but I was busy during that week not just in work-related activities, but also preparation for PinoyFitness 21k Challenge on the 15th. My last chance was the registration in their office in CyberGate Tower 3 on November 16-17 and ASICS 3 registration was still open until the 20th. The problem was during that time, the preparation for the APEC Summit was taking place, so extreme traffic and closed routes were the obstacles of the registration process. I did try to register on November 20 at ASICS Greenbelt(Friday and the last day of registration), but when I heard the bus conductor said that some of the routes in Ayala are still closed (APEC Summit), I decided to just go home and sit this run out. Then I just had the idea to go for a short run in Nuvali and be a spectator of the event. All I can say was that I was very jealous of the participants, they get to run one of the best obstacle runs in the country. So, this article is my race report and review from a spectator’s point of view.
After the release of the last wave of runners, I jogged around the area of Abrio to see some of the obstacles. The race course is 10 kilometers with 15 obstacles. First thing I noticed is that they don’t have the large three stacks high cargo container wall from last year. That was one of the best and toughest obstacles (if you don’t ask for the marshals’ assistance) last year, too bad the newbies didn’t experience it. What they have was a mini obstacle course that tests, I don’t know, stepping skills? and lateral movement?
The Arm Bar obstacle course was slightly different from the Monkey Bar we had last year. When I first saw it, I thought it was harder than the Monkey Bar, but in reality, it was shorter and seemed easier. A lot of participants easily made it through with assistance from the marshals. As far as I remember, marshal assistance was not offered on the Monkey Bars and it was the hardest obstacle IMHO.
The Network + Mudpit obstacle is harder going up and down depending on how slippery it is when you step on the ropes.
The Hill Slide and Ice Bath is probably the most fun obstacles. Just slide and have fun. I have seen some runners hurt their butts by sliding all the way to the dirt.
The Tire Field can surprise you, it can pull you down if your foot got caught. Happened to me last year. I saw some participants who were very tired that they just walk through the tire field slowly instead of quickly breezing through with a bouncy motion.
And just a few meters away from the Tire Field is the Net Crawl. Bounce for the Tire Field, then get low and crawl (or roll).
The Modified Wall + Stuntman Jump was the last obstacle of the race. Last year, it was called the Gatorade Wall.
Surprisingly, there are medals for the survivors of Survival of the Fittest. It was announced in Men’s Health Philippines that the medals were dropped, which is disappointing considering that this is an obstacle run. But, to the participants’ surprise, the finisher medals were announced before the start of the race. The medals could’ve motivated me to push through the planned Nov 20 registration despite the heavy traffic and re-routing. Now, I feel even more jealous of the survivors.
I didn’t see the other obstacles, namely the Traffic Jam and Hurdles. The route seems to be the same as last year. The notable difference I know of from last year was the placement of the Arm bar. Last year’s Monkey Bar, was placed at the end of the Abrio trail, this year’s arm bar was placed somewhere in the middle of Abrio and the Fields. The Hill Slide and Ice pool was the most notable addition I saw in the race. I also believe that this year’s Urbanathlon, despite having the Survival of the Fittest name, was easier the last year’s. But, it’s not the ‘Hard Mode’ as advertised, but it was still fun. The only real issue with this event was the registration. The event gathered an estimated 1,800 participants according to takbo.ph, not bad, but if you want more runners like the international counterpart, in-store registration should be prioritized especially locations that can be easily accessed. Last year, you can get the race kit upon registration, this year, it’s either you get it by free delivery by registering early or you go to the Summit media office. Last option was picking it up at the event site in Nuvali (which doesn’t give you time to fit or wash it). I was really jealous of the participants, I don’t like to watch, I want to go out there and rock. I am a survivor, a survivor of the previous Urbanathlon and the Guerilla Races (let’s include the zombie apocalypse run, Outbreak Missions series), but this year, I’m the nonparticipating survivor. It’s too bad that I’m about to close this running year without at least 1 obstacle run (I also missed the Guerilla Races), but it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a next time. Congratulations to all the survivors. Enjoy the glory.
Camera used for taking photos for this review is the Alcatel Flash Plus 2.
For a look back at last year’s event, go here: https://theroguerebel.wordpress.com/2014/11/28/the-rogue-rebel-urbanathlete-mens-health-urbanathlon-festival-2014/
For inspiration, check out this parathlete’s story here: http://www.menshealth.ph/fitness/fitness-challenge/this-is-how-an-amputee-finished-all-the-urbanathlon-obstacles
Last year, Soleus announced its first fully sponsored running event called Soleus Valley Trail Challenge with the tag line “It’s about time” (not so surprising with the word play there). I wanted to join the 15 km category and make it my first trail and long distance run. Unfortunately, the slots filled up quickly and I know that I’m not ready for 30 km yet.
A year later, after participating in many long distance runs including 4 half-marathons and obstacle runs that include trail segments, I know I’m ready to go beyond the 21 kilometer distance and off the road to run the trails. I was very excited to join this event and I trained very hard (which included trail running in Filinvest City every Wednesday morning after my shift, using the stairs at the office instead of the elevator, and exercises like planks and burpees for conditioning) to make sure that I finish this within the cut-off time of 6 hours.
The event happened on 28th of June in my favorite running grounds, Nuvali. I can hardly contain the excitement and I had a hard time trying to sleep, so, I left home around 1 am and arrived at the event site more than an hour before the gun start.
Nothing much to do before the 3 am gun start. I don’t usually do warm-ups or stretches, so, I just sit back, trying to keep calm, and wait for the briefing before the race.
Finally, after a very entertaining briefing by the race organizer, it’s time to hit the the road (or rather a small portion of it) and into the trails. For this run, I used Nike+ Running app on my XPERIA Active to measure my time and distance and Google My Tracks on Galaxy S4 for mapping.
The race started on road for a few hundred meters and then passing by Abrio before hitting the trails. After more than a kilometer of running on the trails, a lot of us runners, the leads and the middle pack made a mistake of passing through the wrong way. It was when we reached the point of two trails, one that goes straight and the other going left. We are suppose to turn left instead of going straight ahead and unfortunately, we already ran hundreds of meters before the lead runners realized the mistake and turned back. I guess most of us didn’t notice the route markers and some were just following the leading runners and it cost us valuable running time.
The first 2 kilometers of the trail was very familiar to me because it was part of the route of Urbanathlon 2014. The first aid station was located after the Nuvali roundabout and before the 3rd guardhouse of Nuvali main road. It was stock full of refreshments like Gatorade and some snacks, but I didn’t stay long, I’m still fired up and just want to go.
Running through the 2nd trail was a bit harder, it was slippery and the ground is uneven, I almost slipped twice. The darkness does highlight some nice view of lights from the distance and the smell of wet grass was refreshing. At some point between the trails near Xavier School and Treveia, I was running alone. The tall trees, grass, and the darkness would’ve scared me if I did this on my teenager years, but at this age, it was more of a relaxing run. It’s not like the horror flicks where getting lost in total darkness and silence in the woods will make you sh!t yourself so fast you wouldn’t have time to look for a spot and dig to poop. And of course, in reality, Jason Vorhees, Yuan-tis, trolls, tikbalangs, kapres, or whatever woodland creeps you can think of do not exist (I believe they don’t), so, running the Nuvali trails at night with just your headlamp as guide is very safe. My only worries was getting lost and just to be sure that I don’t, I slow down to check if there still lights from headlamps behind me and also look on the sides to see the route markers. I also started my S4’s music player to kill the silence and boredom of running alone, and what better way to begin with the song ‘Highway to Hell’ by AC/DC (sounds just right at the time).
I caught up and pass-by (and vice versa) with other runners. I almost headed the wrong way (I think it was the two-way route with the right turn going to the bird sanctuary), luckily, 2 runners hollered at me and pointed the right direction. It was at this point of the route that the trails become more difficult and there were several instances that I almost slip and trip (by a plant root or a vine) and there was a part of the trail that had stairs (and that was very challenging). There was also this wide part of the trail that seemed like a huge muddy road, but thankfully, there was a marshal on a scooter who guided us with the headlights to help us get around the mud. At that point, I was alternating between quick dashes and walking, I was exhausted and my feet started to hurt, but it’s good that I don’t feel like my calves are about to suffer from cramps again.
Then, finally, I reached the famous part of the trail, the so-called ‘New Zealand’ of Nuvali and what a sight it was.
It was truly a breath-taking sight, feels like all the exhaustion and pain went away as I walk my way around the grassy plains. It kinda looks like the trail of Mt. Gulugod-Baboy with less elevation and strangely enough, I haven’t seen any cows, which is what the New Zealand trail is also famous for (it is worth noting that the grass was taller this time compared to the photos I’ve seen from the web).
En route to the 15k U-Turn, I passed by some security check points along the trail and then I finally reached the 2nd aid station located on a wide muddy road that seemed like it was currently under going construction. I took my time at this station, hydrating and filling my bottles with Gatorade before moving on to the 15 km U-turn which is only a kilometer and a half away. I’m tired, but still have enough energy to smile and greet as many runners as I can a ‘good morning’ as they pass by.
Then, finally I reached the U-turn and was greeted by the 2 nice and cheerful marshals.
It was hard to leave the New Zealand trail of Nuvali, it was the most beautiful part of the route, but there is a cut-off time, so, I can’t really stay long. But, I will admit that I’m guilty of stopping several times to take photos of the surroundings for my blog.
Going back to the previous trails, I get to see what it looks like at daytime, to see some of the things that I had a hard time noticing because of the dark. I saw some of the muddy potholes and the vines (or roots) that almost tripped me. It’s a good thing that I was able to run without any accidents.
Going back was harder because I feel like I’ve already drained my tank and that my body feels like it’s about to overheat (because it was very hot even if it was only around 6 am in the morning). I walked more distances than I could run and started to feel pain on my thighs and feet again. Small rocks and dirt got inside my shoes which was very irritating and I can feel some slight pain on the hardened blisters of my right foot (which was already a week old blood blister).
It feels like hiking mode is taking forever just to pass a kilometer. I wanted to run, but I’m trying to recover. I did some quick sprints and alternate with walking from each route marker to the next, but it still feels slow and the heat is just too much.
After awhile, and also passing by some of the 15k runners, we finally reached the 1st aid station. I was very thirsty and hungry, so this time around, I took a break to eat and re-hydrate. I didn’t take too much time off though, still got to push to finish at least a sub-5 hour finish.
At the time, with all the heat and exhaustion finally getting into me, I was wondering and asking myself questions like ‘what the hell did I just get into?’ ‘should I do this again?’ while still walking a slow pace. Still have to push through, I’m no quitter when it comes to challenges like this.
The last 2 kilometers of the race was the most grueling experience. I know the finish line is so near and yet it feels so far because I can’t run anymore and my body tells me to just walk it and I’ll get there slowly, but surely. And I did, I brisk walked the last few hundreds of meters and in the last few meters from the finish line, I jogged.
I made it. Finished it. Conquered my first 30 kilometer trail run. I was very tired, but I feel great. According to Nike+ Running app, I ran a total of 32.19 km in 04:54:09 and Google My Tracks recorded 32.12 km with 04:54:32 moving time. And the official result from frontrunner’s website is 04:50:52, rank 34 out of 137 runners in the 30k category. Not bad for a 1st time trail runner, I survived, and I’m very satisfied with the result.
I always believed that toughness is truly tested outdoors, under harsh environments and not in the air-conditioned, safe confines of the gym. My first trail run verified my belief and it was an awesome experience, one of the best runs I’ve ever had so far. Running and getting connected and close to nature, just you and your feet on the ground (of different terrains), it’s so natural. After crossing the finish line and rested a bit, all the thoughts I had some time ago during the race about questioning my purpose of joining such a difficult race has faded. All the pain in my body was temporarily forgotten as the feeling of glory overwhelms it. I asked myself before, should I do this again? the answer now is ‘hell yes!’ and I’d do it again as soon I have fully recovered. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait for another year and until then, I’ll just have to keep on training and keep myself busy with other running events to stay fit as I plan to join next year’s 50k category and make it my 1st ultramarathon.
Three running events from the previous months failed my expectations or did not deliver the kind of satisfaction I was looking for. Valley Trail Challenge 2015 has reminded why I love running. I like to test myself, to be put under pressure to see how far I can go, how long I can last, and how tough I can be. VTC 2015 has done just that and the experience will always be a memorable one. See you again next year.
– An error in the registration from Garmin Glorietta 5 put me on the 15k list instead of the 30k. Thankfully, it was corrected and I got my race kit without hassle.
– Like Men’s Health UrbanAthlon, the event also have some of the nicest and cheerful marshals I’ve encountered. Kudos to the organizer for having a good staff. And great job on the aid stations, they’re chock full or food and refreshments.
– First time in a long distance race that I didn’t suffer from cramps. I guess burpees, planks and taking the stairs at the office contributed to the conditioning. I did have chafing on my inner thighs and my feet hurts (I even think my hardened blood blister on my right foot expanded).
– The 30k distance also served as the next step and a test to see if I’m fit to run a marathon (42km distance). In my conclusion, yes, I’m fit and ready. But, I won’t just join any marathon, it has to be something special, something good and the only thing that popped in my mind was Condura Skyway Marathon 2016.
– Trail running is very challenging indeed. Sure, mountain hiking can be a challenge, but since most of the time you just walk, it doesn’t really push a runner’s stamina to the limit. And in road running, I can finish a half-marathon in 2 hours and 13 minutes, but on this race, it took me 3 hours and 9 minutes to reach 21k.
– GPS signal in the Nuvali trails is always good. Google My Tracks and Nike+ Running both produce accurate tracking methods. The photos below are from My Tracks in satellite mapping view in comparison with frontrunner’s official race map.