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)

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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.

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Race briefing with the race director.
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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.

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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.

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Let’s rock!… the trails!
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While waiting for Demet to catch up.
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Another flooded area. This is the first time our shoes tasted mud.
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Approaching the 1st Aid station at Kilometer 7.
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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.

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Things go uphill from here.
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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.
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That muddy pathway.
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A different kind of streaming. It’s offline.
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It’s the mandatory groufie every time we rest.
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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.
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We reached this view deck with a nice view of the pacific ocean.
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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.
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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.

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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.
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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.

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Still Standing.
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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.
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Quiet and calm environment. This is the time to go emo.
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A runner, Ella, joined us in our shenanigans.
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Rivers make me feel so emo.
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Nelson thanking his imaginary sponsors. Ella must be thinking what she has gotten into.
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City Life, Thug Life, here it’s Farm Life.
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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.

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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.
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And this is what the river looks like.
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And the view to my left.
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And I asked Nelson to take my running action shot.
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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.

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It rained earlier, but this are is blessed with clear skies.
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There’s some children playing in the distance and a horse roaming freely and eating. Life is so simple and relaxing here.
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A hill over there.
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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.

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One last view of the farmville before we head back to Magsikap Bridge.
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Seeing people walk slowly uphill looked like a scene from The Walking Dead.
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Then there’s the downhill rush.
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I don’t think this is the right time to ask Demet, “How’s it going?”
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The lord of Riverrun! Photo from Sandugo facebook page.
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There’s a hidden photographer in the wild. He’s the guy who took photos of us running on the stream.
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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.

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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…
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See that mountain range on the horizon? that’s where we’re going next.
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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.
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As Demet take a rest, I asked Nelson to take another running action shot of me running downhill.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Came across another view deck. Reminding us the hardship we’ve been through and to keep going.
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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.

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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.
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Mission Accomplished for me in guiding the two first time trail runners.
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Now a certified trail runner. Demet has ascended the fun run and hiking level. Congratulations.
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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 more than 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.

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The only thing missing in this generous race kit is running shorts.
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Posted in 10 kilometers, 10k, adventure, hiking, mountain trekking, places to run, Trail run, trail running, trekking, Uphill Run

It’s a dirty experience and involves a lot of sucking!… Nuun Dirt School Level 3

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Lost in the woods!

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.

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School for the day…

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.

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Ms. Carina sharing her story.

The actual trail run started around 8 am, beginning with a power walk to the Makiling Trail Entry Point.

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If that dog is a guide and can ward off snakes or warn you of impending danger and the presence of the Leech Queen, I’d hire him in a heartbeat.
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The trail gang before we were divided into different pace groups.

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.

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The area is so huge, there are so many places to explore.
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To the left will lead you to the trail going to the mud spring, which is said to be the crater of Mount Makiling.

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.

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Approaching Agila Base. 6+ kilometers away from Makiling Botanic Garden.

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.

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We reached Agila Base around “Nuun” time! get it!? ‘nuun’ and ‘noon’ sounding the.. ah, forget it.
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The party’s here! Photo from Jaymie Pizaro’s instagram.

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.

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Fallen trees to make the scenery look Jurassic and dangerous. Loving it.

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.

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Station 22: Limatik Territory. Dun dun dun! Bling let me borrow her head wear for this area.
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Me, Bling Runner, and Sonny resting at Station 22.

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.

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Very steep climb. You need to use your hands to grab on to rocks or tree parts to pull yourself up.
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Some parts have a ladder and rope to help you go up safely.
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You know you’re near Station 30 or Peak 2 when you see and enter this cave like structure.
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Finally here at Peak 2. And I didn’t even know that a limatik is already on my chest getting some. Fortunately, my shirt is drenched with sweat and it’s probably the reason why it wasn’t able to drain a lot of blood. Too salty for ya?
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It’s a mandatory blood donation to the limatik community.
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Getting some on my left calf. The other one got a lot and expanding. I was so grossed out and feel weakened that I asked someone to flick it.
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Suck my d… dermis! This one started moving when it felt like it wasn’t draining any blood.
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Station 30 is Peak 2.
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3 hours to reach the peak and 10.5 kilometers in total starting from Botanic Gardens.
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The completionists at the peak.

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.

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The exit to the left leads to the Sto. Tomas Batangas trail, which is even harder than the UPLB trail. You can enter it if you want to traverse.
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Want a nice view of the surroundings? step on this stone. The stepping stone.
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Descending is easy, you can even have some fun hopping around and sliding. Just be careful.

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.

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One last look at the trail as after leaving Agila Base.

Enrique and I decided to jog downhill for a little boost and George told us to go ahead, he’ll catch up later.

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One of the most scenic roads I ever ran on. Just look at that tree branch going across the other side of the street.

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.

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Eye catching trees along the way.
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The turtle and the snail runners.

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.

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The Clean Loot bag (sling bag) includes the Nuun Dirt School shirt, a Salomon X 2016 Trail Run Tech Shirt, a Salomon sticker, discount cards, Regent snack, and Squeezy Gel Drink. Won a Nuun citrus berry + Nuun hydration bottle from the raffle.
Posted in City Run, Gear Review, GPS watch, half-marathon, Marathon, Review, running, running event, Trail run, trail running, Valley Trail Challenge

Accuracy or Fu*K-uracy: A non-professional observation and analysis of GPS devices for running…

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.

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The race course was said to be 5 kilometers. My GPS watch said it’s 4.88 kilometers.

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.

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According to my GPS One, I ran a maximum speed of 72.9 km/h some time during my run. Wow! Good thing Usain Bolt is retired. I should probably go after Eliud Kipchoge then.

Distance Discrepancy?

–   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.

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3 minutes and 15 seconds in the first kilometer. If only I can really run this pace. I know for a fact that when I run below 4 minutes and 30 seconds, I start feeling cramps about to hit me. So, yeah I have never ran a 3-minute per kilometer pace before.

GPS devices or just trust the Organizer’s Race Route?

–   What you see in your GPS devices can also match the race course distance if you get a very good signal. But, the race route can be more or less of the total distance as advertised. It depends on how the organizer of the event measured the race route and there are some instances that could force the organizer to shorten distance like unfavorable weather or last minute changes due to traffic and other road-related incidents that is beyond their control. Other organizers will add extra kilometers as a bonus  or a slight change in the race route. If you really want a distance accurate race route, then look for an event sanctioned by an athletics organization like Philippine Athletics Track And Field Association (PATAFA).

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It was supposed to be only 34 kilometers, but a small change in the race route added 3 extra kilometers.

Comparison with Car Odometer (FINAL UPDATE)

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.

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Trial 1: Stopping at 1 kilometer with the GPS devices connected with good signal, the Nike app recorded a 40-meter difference, while the GPS watch showed a much bigger number at 110 (or more) meters.
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Trial 2: I reset the odometer and stopped at 3 kilometers. Similar results from the 1 kilometer run with 30-meter difference on the app and 110+ meters on the GPS watch.
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And just for comparisons sake, I did keep the car’s speed at 40+ km/h most of the time and sped up to 80+ km/h once to overtake a vehicle. I think the GPS watch got it right with the average (41 km/h) and maximum speed (83.2 km/h) reading.

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 yesbut, 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.

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My Personal Bests in Nike Run Club app. Guess which ones are fu*k-urate. Hint: I can’t run an elite marathoner pace.
Posted in 25km, 30km, adventure, Trail run, trail running, Valley Trail Challenge

Wet and Wild… and Dirty!.. Valley Trail Challenge VI

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.

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Lining up for the race kit/bib claiming.
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Almost there…
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For the first time in a running event, I decided not to use the event shirt and just put on my Batman singlet from the Batman v Superman last April. I wanted to feel like Batman in the dark and when the going gets tough, ‘bahala na si Batman.’

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.

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Walking around solo with time to spare. Even tried to be Cyborg (even though I’m wearing a Batman singlet) to kill the boredom.

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.

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Listening to the race director’s announcements. There are no uphills. Remember that.
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25k runners at the starting line.
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About to be released into the wilderness…

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.

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Even I don’t know the point of slowing down and taking photos when the route is so dark. Maybe, I just want to show you how dark it was. This is one of the brighter parts of the trails.

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.

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Sir Jonel told us there’s no UpHell. No uphills, indeed. If there was, I didn’t notice it. Well played, sir Jonel, well played. In last year’s route, we just ran straight to the other side (I remember it was a muddy road), this time, we turn left and ran on the concrete road.

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.

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Running through the woods…

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.

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Entering New Zealand. To the right, to the right.

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.

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The grass were finely cut at the time, no cows on sight, but….
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It looks like it’s about to rain…
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Last year was bright and sunny. Nice view of the sunrise. This time, it was dull and cloudy.
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No cows on sight. What are they up to? Are they on strike? Are they planning an ambush?
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Panoramic view of the New Zealand Trail. Lush green grass this time of the year.

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.

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Then it stopped running again. Time to rush downhill. A kilometer away from the turning point.

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.

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Going back, leaving the New Zealand trail. My Fitletic belt is being pulled down by the 800+ ml of liquids I was carrying.

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.

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The sun came out for a short while. It’s brighter, but the road is still muddy and slippery. Nothing to enjoy there.
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Sir Jonel said that in a few years, the trails of Nuvali will be affected by land development, Best enjoy it while it’s still there. That’s why I’ll join Valley Trail Challenge every year.
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DownHell time! for the much-needed momentum.
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Where’s the UpHells?
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These steps are always one of the challenging part of the route.
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Wooden bridge at the Bird Sanctuary trail.
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Runners can rest here, but I’d rather walk and keep moving.

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.

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Last 8 kilometers to go…
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Not sure if I’m happy that’s it’s the last 8 kilometers or I’m just happy because I’m starting to go crazy…
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But, one things for sure, I’m always happy running the trails.
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250 trees since 2009 and counting. Probably near or surpassed 300 by now.

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.

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26 kilometers at 4 hours and 7 minutes.
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Gotta give props to the photographer who took this (called Don Bigote of Active Pinas), I was surprised when I saw him, he was sitting on the branch of a tree.
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Thanks for the surprise and creative shot.

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).

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Slidy, Slippery, Splendid!
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My poor Saucony Ride 7 Viziglo. You did your best to make sure I have enough grip to prevent me from slipping and tripping. Really need trail shoes badly.

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.

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The struggle is real and I’m loving it.
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Almost there and I’m feeling it!
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Gotta get that smile in there…
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Dirty, but looking good…
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Muddy, but not cuddly…
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Just 1, 2 step…
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Touch Down! The Bat has landed!
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My Soleus GPS One watch recorded 27.8 kilometers at 04:24:06, whilst Nike+ Running app yielded 28.2 kilometers at 04:24:24. I did not stop my devices as I cross the finish line, I only did so after getting the medal, the loot bag, and when I was finally sitting down and resting. The official results below.

The official results placed me at rank 25 out of 84 runners in the 25k category, with an official time of 04:23:03. View the official results here: Valley Trail Challenge VI Official Results

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

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The hard-earned medal.
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Through the rain, the mud, and the challenges. Congratulations to all the finishers.
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Love this year’s medal design.
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My shoes took a beating, but it kept me safe.

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The loot bag from Universal Robina Corp.
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The post-race meal.
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50k next year. Rain or Shine.
Posted in 10k, obstacle run, Trail run, trail running

The nonparticipant survivor… Men’s Health Urbanathlon: Survival of the Fittest

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.

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Arrived at the site before the 5:30 am gunstart.
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The very first wave of solo runners.
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Awesome logo, badass title.
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The stage is set.

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?

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The Mini Obstacle Course. Since I wasn’t a participant, I have no idea how hard or what this obstacle is about.

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.

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The Arm Bar is one of the hardest obstacles in any obstacle run. It requires good grip and upper body strength. But, this year, Marshal assistance is an option to make it easier.
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What makes this obstacle harder is the runners’ exhaustion from the 8+ kilometers or road and trail running. The bars were already slippery and anyone can lose their grip. Last year, the Monkey Bar is the hardest obstacle for me. I had 4 (or maybe it was 5) retries before I successfully crossed it. I even had cramps while hanging. 
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Marshal assistance is optional making it easier for anyone. IMO, for Urbanathlon to be considered ‘hard mode’ as advertised, there should be penalty for not being able to finish an obstacle. Like in The Guerilla Race where you have to do 30 burpees if you can’t finish an obstacle.

The Network + Mudpit obstacle is harder going up and down depending on how slippery it is when you step on the ropes.

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Better to climb this with barefoot.
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Going down is easier.
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You can jump down, but be wary of the risks.

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.

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Just make sure that the slide is still wet or the marshal just poured water on it and you’re all set. It’s fun.
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Selfie of a jealous nonparticipant.
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The Ice Bath (or pool) is soothing. Just wash away that dirty bum bum.

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.

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Third to the last obstacle of the race. Comparing the photo of the Tire Field from last year, this looked shorter in length.
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Women are quite agile in this obstacle.

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).

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Others crawl, others roll.

The Modified Wall + Stuntman Jump was the last obstacle of the race. Last year, it was called the Gatorade Wall.

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Climb and Jump like a stuntman.

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.

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I collect medals of achievement, especially ones from obstacle runs. Too bad I missed this.
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Glory awaits.

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.

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I’ll run strong next year. See you Urbanatlon. You too, Guerilla Race.  

 

SIDE NOTES:

  • 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

 

 

 

 

Posted in 30km, adventure, Trail run, trail running, Valley Trail Challenge

Going beyond the road and the 21k distance…. Valley Trail Challenge 5

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.

Walking to the activity area on East Nature Avenue at 2:17 am. I parked in EVOLiving's parking area because I wanted to be near the area's air-conditioned comfort rooms to change clothes after the race.
Walking to the activity area on East Nature Avenue at 2:17 am. I parked in EVOLiving’s parking area because I wanted to be near the area’s air-conditioned comfort rooms to change clothes after the race.

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.

Waiting for the gun start is torturous when you're very eager to run.
Waiting for the gun start is torturous when you’re very eager to run.
Race briefing at the activity area.  Photo Credit: Rai Cabanig
Race briefing at the activity area.
Photo Credit: Rai Cabanig
Who are running their first trail run? Photo credit: Rai Cabanig
Who are running their first trail run?
Photo credit: Rai Cabanig
I'm very serious in running my first trail run. Photo credit: Rai Cabanig
I’m very serious in running my first trail run.
Photo credit: Rai Cabanig
Serious look, hidden excitement. Photo credit: Rai Cabanig
Serious look, hidden excitement.
Photo credit: Rai Cabanig

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 starting line. I imagined my itchy feet doing a burnout and my lungs firing on all cylinders. That's how excited I was.
The starting line. I imagined my itchy feet doing a burnout and my lungs firing on all cylinders. That’s how excited I was.

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.

This is what we missed on the trail. This indicates 'wrong way' as posted on the frontRUNNER Valley Trail Challenge FB page. I guess most of us didn't notice it because of the dark or the lack of observation and it cost us time.
This is what we missed on the trail. This indicates ‘wrong way’ as posted on the frontRUNNER Valley Trail Challenge FB page. I guess most of us didn’t notice it because of the dark or the lack of observation and it cost us time. (Photo from Valley Trail Challenge FB page)

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.

Finally! A sight to behold and Just in time for the sun to come out (and the route is turn right not straight towards that tree over there).
Finally! A sight to behold and just in time for the sun to come out (and the route is turn right not straight towards that tree over there).
Sunrise in Nuvali. Looks like a sunrise scene from a movie shot in Africa or the Lion King to me.
Sunrise in Nuvali. Looks like a sunrise scene from a movie shot in Africa or the Lion King to me.
Mount Makiling on the horizon.
Mount Makiling on the horizon.

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.

At the 15 km U-Turn. Exhausted, but still smiling. Photo credit to the marshal of the U-turn.
At the 15 km U-Turn. Exhausted, but still smiling. Photo credit to the marshal of the U-turn.

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.

A view of Tagaytay and Mount Sungay, better known as People's Park in the Sky.
A view of Tagaytay and Mount Sungay, better known as People’s Park in the Sky.
On my way back and passing through the 2nd aid station again.
On my way back and passing through the 2nd aid station again.
Some of the photos I've seen on the web had cows on this area. Haven't seen any and the grass are taller at this time.
Some of the photos I’ve seen on the web had cows on this area. Haven’t seen any and the grass are taller at this time.
This is what the route markers look like. Red, yellow, and green tapes indicate you're on the right path. Caution tapes warn runners of slippery and risky parts of the route.
This is what the route markers look like. Red, yellow, and green tapes indicate you’re on the right path. Caution tapes warn runners of slippery and risky parts of the route.
Taller grass on the trails, but you can still see some runners from a distance.
Tall grass on the trails, but you can still see some runners from a distance.
It looks like a trail from Mt. Gulugod-Baboy, but the grass is greener (and taller) on this side.
It looks like a trail from Mt. Gulugod-Baboy, but the grass is greener (and taller) on this side.
Yes, I'm guilty of making frequents stops to take photos.....
Yes, I’m guilty of making frequents stops to take photos…..
But, can you blame me if the scenery looks this good?
But, can you blame me if the scenery looks this good?

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.

Back to my least favorite part of the trails.
Back to my least favorite part of the trails.
Ugggh... the wide, muddy road again. At least it's better than a road filled with cow poop.
Ugggh… the wide, muddy road again. At least it’s better than a road filled with cow poop.
The stairs. One of the toughest obstacles of the route.
The stairs. One of the toughest obstacles of the route.
A small bridge along the trail.
A small bridge along the trail.

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).

The heat of the trail. At least some parts of the road were already dry.
The heat of the trail. At least some parts of the road were already dry.
Some muddy potholes that can cause serious injuries. These are hard to see at night even with a headlamp.
Some muddy potholes that can cause serious injuries. These are hard to see at night even with a headlamp.
Hours ago, during the night, this was one of the darkest the part of the route and the point when I was running alone...
Hours ago, during the night, this was one of the darkest the part of the route and the point when I was running alone…
At night, this part was kinda spooky with the darkness, the silence, and the tall trees. Good thing I  have music to eliminate that silence and boredom of running alone.
At night, this part was kinda spooky with the darkness, the silence, and the tall trees. Just imagine something popping out of the bushes.

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.

For some reason, I like this part of the trail. It's like looking at urban decay with flora swallowing man-made  structures.
For some reason, I like this part of the trail. It’s like looking at urban decay with flora swallowing man-made structures.
The small river. One of the most slippery part of the trail because of the uphill part that you have to pass through.
The small river. One of the most slippery part of the trail because of the uphill part that you have to pass through.

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.

The finish line.  Official time: 04:50:52. Not bad for a first time trail runner and my first time going beyond the 21 km distance. Official results here: http://frontrunnermagph.com/2015/07/01/official-results-valley-trail-challenge-5-and-race-directors-report/
The finish line.
Official time: 04:50:52. Not bad for a first time trail runner and my first time going beyond the 21 km distance. Official results here: VTC 5 Results
Resting at the activity area.
Resting at the activity area.
Still resting... A moment of reflection after finishing my first 30km trail run.
Still resting… A moment of reflection after finishing my first 30km trail run.

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.

One last look at the finish line before going home. Tired, but happy.
One last look at the finish line before going home. Tired, but happy.
As part of my preparation for recovery, I brought my own ice cold refreshments and food. Kept it inside the car, so I can replenish myself before the drive home.
As part of my preparation for recovery, I brought my own ice cold refreshments and food. Kept it inside the car, so I can replenish myself before the drive home.
The goodie bag from the event has enough food and drinks for recovery.
The goodie bag from the event has enough food and drinks for recovery.
A cute medal. As a token from first 30k trail run, this is now one of my most significant medals (along with my 3 survivor dog tags from Outbreak Missions, Guerilla Race Sprint and Warrior medals, Urbanathlon medal, PinoyFitness Sub1 10k medal, and the 7-11 Run 1500 21k medal.
A cute medal. As a token from first 30k trail run, this is now one of my most significant medals (along with my 3 survivor dog tags from Outbreak Missions, Guerilla Race Sprint and Warrior medals, Urbanathlon medal, PinoyFitness Sub1 10k medal, and the 7-11 Run 1500 21k medal.
I don't have a formal trail run shoe (I have a Vibram Treksport that I use for mountain hiking, but it gives me blisters when used for running), so I had to use my Saucony Kinvara 3. I did the job well, but some parts of the outsole got damaged. Gonna need a real trail shoe for my next trail run.
I don’t have a formal trail run shoes (I have a Vibram Treksport that I use for mountain hiking, but it gives me blisters when used for running), so I had to use my Saucony Kinvara 3. I did the job well, but some parts of the outsole got damaged. Gonna need a real trail shoe for my next trail run.

NOTES:

– 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.

The race route via Google My Tracks (in satellite view).
The race route via Google My Tracks (in satellite view).
Frontrunner's official race map.
Frontrunner’s official race map.