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.

img_20161106_070444-0101
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.

20170709_045717-01~01
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.

20170709_045626-01~01
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).

20170202_190157
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.

PhotoGrid_1501411709217~01
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.
PhotoGrid_1501411900203~01
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.
20170730_091520-02~01.jpg
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.

Screenshot_20170716-163129~01
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 10 kilometers, 10k, 15 kilometers, 21k, 5k, 5km, 711, 7eleven, adventure, backpacking, best moments, City Run, Duo Race, Expo and Events, fun run, half-marathon, Marathon, Milo Marathon, Photo Shoot, Photography, run for a cause, running, running event, running locales, Running Photography, travel, ultramarathon, Valley Trail Challenge

2016 Bests!

It has been more than 3 years since I started joining the running scene. Some events never change, some got better, and some end their series run (pun intended). The most important thing for me last year is that I evolved and ran to the next level, by joining my first marathon and ultramarathon. Aside from running, I started blogging about the other things that I love to do like photography, video games, and traveling. I started this blog in late 2014 as a journal of my fitness journey, the chronicles of my running adventure. 2016 thought me that blogging can be a tool for even more experiences and can even be a source of awesome benefits. I received invitations from organizers to attend their events or press conference to write an article or cover the event and in return, I got backstage pass, some nice tokens, and even won prizes from raffles. So, I revamped the design of my page, new look for 2017, and will try to run, travel, and do more interesting stuff and activities worthy of blogging. For now, here’s the best of 2016.

======   BEST MOMENT   ======

Finishing my first Marathon (Condura Skyway Marathon 2016)

Condura Skyway Marathon 2016
You will never forget your first marathon. Photo Credit: Pinoy Fitness.

Though the event itself was just average, it’s the moment of crossing the finish line of your first marathon that makes it one of the most memorable and best feeling of your life. Running the marathon distance (42.195 kilometers) is the ultimate goal for serious runners. It’s like the last level of a video game, the last round in boxing, the grand finale of a concert, it’s the culmination of your fitness and running journey. And the bonus for me is that I became the first marathoner in the family (both father and mother side). I started it and hopefully, the future generations of the family tree will follow.

Honorable Mentions:

Running my first international run (11th Laguna Phuket International Marathon)

lpm14
One of the biggest surprises in my life. Me, running my first international run in Phuket, Thailand.

Never saw it coming, never expected it to happen, it was a surprise that I ran my first out-of-country run in 2016. A surprise delivered by 7-Eleven Philippines. It was my blog article/race report that got me the ticket for an all-expense paid trip to Phuket, Thailand for the 11th Laguna Phuket International Marathon to cover the event as our country’s representatives give their best performances to win the race. I was also given the opportunity to run the 10.5 category of the race (my first international run and first out-of-country trip) and we all had a rewarding tour around Phuket. We returned home victorious and had a great time, and that is the reason why this is so memorable to me.

Canyoneering in Cebu (Thanksgiving vacation in Cebu)

DCIM101GOPRO
Glory of Love?… Loving what we’re doing in Cebu!

To set foot in Cebu for the first time is memorable enough, jumping 40+ feet off a cliff is just epic and unforgettable. It’s all about conquering your fear (especially if you have some degree of acrophobia and can’t swim) and the adrenaline rush that made it one of the best things I’ve done in 2016.

Finishing my first Ultramarathon (Altra Speed50 Tagaytay)

speed50_8
All smiles for another milestone. Photo Credit: albertthebackpacker.com

For all its shortcomings or failures, the event is below average (I love the first half of the race route though and the trophy and medal is good), but finishing a race that goes beyond the marathon distance is another milestone in my running life. Ultramarathons don’t have the flair of a marathon event nor does it focus on elite-level speed, it’s the experience and the validation that your body can endure and go the longer distance that makes it a special experience.

======   BEST MEDAL   ======

40th Milo Marathon Medal

milo medal
This year’s Milo Marathon medal is bigger and looks better than the previous years medals.

It’s gold in color, well-designed, big, and heavy. Should there be any other reason why this isn’t the best?

Honorable Mentions:

Batman V Superman Run Medal

IMG_20160409_073219-01~01
Like a shiny Batarang.

The only way that a Batman v Superman medal could be better is if it was designed like a batarang with the S symbol in the middle instead of a round medal. But, this still looks very good, I like the cut of the BvS symbol and there was also an option to have your finishing time engraved behind the medal for a small fee.

Valley Trail Challenge VI Medal

IMG_20160820_085937-01~01
It’s a Moo-dal!

It’s a cute medal and it’s not made of metal, so it’s one of the lightest medal I earned. I like the cow head design, it fits the theme of the trail run and it really looks unique compared to my metal medals.

======   BEST EVENT SHIRT/SINGLET   ======

Batman v Superman singlet

vt11
Feels like Batman on his non-brooding days.

This singlet is so good it makes you look like you have Batman’s abs. Color and design is modeled after the Batffleck costume, and I like it so much that I used it in 2 running events.

Honorable Mentions

Team 7-Eleven ASICS Motion Dry

speed50_6
Blue is the Coolest Color

I got this from 7-Eleven Philippines as our official team shirt at the 11th Laguna Phuket Marathon. I like it because of the nice design, the fabric, the light weight, and skin tight feel. Also worn this on my first ultramarathon.

Condura SkyWay Marathon 2016 Tech Shirt

IMG_20160203_064111-01~01
According to sports studies and statistics, those who wear read in competitions and matches are likely to win. Not me though.

With ASICS as one of the major sponsors, this is just as light and comfortable as the Team 7-Eleven ASICS Motion Dry shirt (doesn’t have the skin tight feeling though). No wonder the registration fee of Condura Skyway Marathon is expensive, the quality of the tech shirt and finisher shirt is very good.

======   BEST FINISHER SHIRT   ====== 

Condura Skyway Marathon 2016 Finisher Shirt

IMG_20160207_164813-01~01
If the red tech shirt is fire, the blue finisher shirt is ice.

It’s quite clever that the finisher shirt of the 2016 Condura Skyway Marathon is blue in contrast with the red tech shirt. It’s like fire and ice or the yin and the yang. Like the tech shirt, the fabric is nice and comfortable. The back of the shirt also illustrates the race route, the map of the Skyway.

Honorable Mentions:

Financial Fitness Run 2016 Finisher Shirt

IMG_20160529_080216-01~01
Purple Power!

The shirt has the right mix of colors, white on the body with purple on the sides and lime green on the back. And that running man on the front completes a visually appealing design.

40th Milo Marathon Finisher Shirt

milo-mart
Milo Marathon is like the Philippine equivalent of the Boston Marathon. The theme color is green (because of the Milo products) like the Boston Celtics.

This finisher shirt is very similar to the Condura Skyway Marathon finisher shirt. The fabric feels the same and it also has the route map printed at the back.

======   BEST FREEBIES   ======

All the stuff I got from 7-Eleven Philippines

IMG_20160117_083042-01~01
My loot from the 7-Eleven Run 2016.
IMG_20160604_112326-01~01
The Team 7-Eleven Philippines jacket and ASICS Motion Dry shirt.

Aside from all the free stuff (or should I say, grocery) that I grabbed from 7-Eleven Run 2016, 7-Eleven Philippines gave us a team jacket and ASICS Motion Dry shirt for the Phuket trip. Nothing can top that.

Honorable Mentions

Saucony Kinvara 7

k7
For that green-minded runs

Not a freebie from a running event, I got this by joining a Saucony facebook contest. a free pair of running shoes means I was able to save money this year.

Stuff I got from the Special Force Online Press Conference

img_20161109_10115401
Contents of the loot bag include a Special Force T-shirt, mouse pad, and Starbucks Card.
dsc09769-0101
Just got lucky and won this awesome Razer Network Hoodie from the raffle. I checked razerzone.com for the price and it’s worth $79.99

I was invited by PlayPark to attend the press conference of the returning Special Force Online. So glad that I did. PlayPark is a very generous company, they provided us with good food, fun games, and a preview of Special Force Online before the closed beta test. I though the good stuff ended their, until they’ve given us the loot bags that included a Special Force T-shirt, mouse pad, and a Starbucks card loaded with 500 php. And I also got lucky and won a Razer ‘Network’ Hoodie. It was an awesome night, so awesome.

======   RUNNING EVENTS RANKING   ======

This is it, the running events as ranked from worst to best. I joined 11 running events this year and this is how I rate them based on the experience and how the organizers handled their events.

11. Altra Speed 50 Ultramarathon Tagaytay

img_20161204_060451-0101
My first ultramarathon finish is memorable, the event itself is forgettable.

I joined this event because I really wanted to complete my objective of finishing my first ultramarathon this year and as the substitute for not being able to join the 50k category of Valley Trail Challenge. It was the ideal run for me because of the race route in Tagaytay, and the trophy and medal looks good. But, the event itself is below average because of the organizer’s shortcomings. The failure of the organizer to arrive early (before the participants) and prepare the event on time is their biggest mistake. The messy bib number (and the lack of it) distribution, the scarce supplies of the Palace in the Sky aid station, the absence of marshals and lighting/guide on the pitch dark part of the route going to Nasugbu, and the lack of trophies and finisher shirts for those who crossed the finish line at a later time (but still made it to the cutoff) all adds up to this disappointing event.

10. Manila Great Run Duo Road Race Challenge

IMG_20160612_063118-01~01
10k run first and then 5k run after an hour. hmm….

The concept of Manila Great Run Duo Road Race is unique. It is a 15k run, but your first run is a 10-kilometer race. After finishing the 10k, there’s a 1-hour break before you start the 2nd round, the 5k run. Sounds simple, right? but it confused a lot of the participants resulting to an organized event with messy results. Some of the 5k runners started to run with the 15k runners because they were not reminded of their respective gunstart. A lot of the participants thought that they only signed up for a 10k run, unaware of the 5k run on the 2nd round. Some runners didn’t want to run the 5k run (because it was already hot at 7 am), so they just claimed their medal even without participating in the 2nd round (think about it, you got a medal for running just half of the race). Despite the mistakes of both organizer and participants, the event is at least well-organized with a lot of freebies and nice activities.

09. Eggciting Family Adventure Fun Run

eggf1
It’s the November Easter Egg Hunt. Photo credit: Bicolano Runner

I was very interested about joining this event, but I was a bit low on resources (funding again) at the time (after joining Valley Trail Challenge and registering for Philippine Marine Corp Marathon 2). Luckily, I got a free race kit from the organizer for attending their media and bloggers conference and blogging their event. This is one of the most fun, family-oriented event I joined with lots of activities for the kids and giveaways for everyone. And the concept of searching for easter eggs along the race route for a prize is a nice addition to the fun of just running.

08. 40th Milo Marathon

DSC_2598
Feels like I’m running the local version of the Boston Marathon. Photo Credit: Photo-Ops

Running the Milo Marathon is a must for most serious and seasoned runners. It is the longest running (pun intended) marathon event in the country. The best runners of the country run the Milo Marathon every year. It is a very special event and I want to be a part of it. Though my performance was quite disappointing compared to my first marathon, I enjoyed the experience of finally running in the biggest marathon event of the country.

07. Financial Fitness Run 2016

ffr10
One is a rogue, Two is company, Three’s a crowd. Photo Credit: Active Pinas

I was able to join this event because to of my office mates finally decided to join and the registration fee is reasonable. I like the plaque for 21k finishers and the finisher shirt looks festive and good enough to be included in my best list this year. And another bonus is finally running on Bonifacio Global City grounds for the first time (because BGC is one of the most popular running event venues, so finally).

06. Batman v Superman Run

bvsr2
I am the day. Photo credit: Running Photographers

I only joined this run because of the singlet and medal. Little did I know that there’s so much more in store. It was fun to see cosplayers and runners wearing symbols of their favorite DC superheroes. This run is also memorable for my super delayed start (more than 20 minutes had passed when I started running) because I got caught in traffic and cramped like a sardine in a bus full of passengers at 5 am on a Saturday morning (first time experience).

05. Condura Skyway Marathon 2016

csm2016_by_Foot-AH
Achievement Unlocked: Reach Marathon Level. Photo Credit: Team Foot-Ah

Last year’s Condura Skyway Marathon is so much better (except for the tech shirt and finisher shirt), they have better presentation, more photographers, more runners (even creating a record for the highest number of participants in 42k category), and better medal. But, I joined this for the experience of running a marathon for the first time. It was the culmination of everything since the day I started running, when I become serious about it, and when I finally decided that it’s time. I planned it for a year and it finally happened, I’m a marathoner now. It feels so good to finally reach this level, to finally run the benchmark distance for runners, and to finally say that I have done it rather than just thinking about doing it or just ponder if I could have done it.

04. 11th Laguna Phuket International Marathon

IMG_20160604_170403~01
The non-elite runners of Team 7-Eleven Philippines.

This run I never saw coming, it’s a big surprise. Because of my race report of the 7-Eleven Runs, I got an invitation to join Team 7-Eleven Philippines as the blogger (and photographer). The winners of the 7-Eleven Run will compete at the 11th Laguna Phuket International Marathon and I was also given the opportunity to run the 10.5k category to experience the event as a runner. This is my first international run and I really liked it. It was a sunset run, but the weather at the time was very hot (kinda like summer in the Philippines). I like the race route is scenic and the event is so good there’s a lot of foreign runners (even pinoys) joining this race every year. The event is better organized than some of our local events, there’s even a buffet at the activity area. It’s a good thing my first international run was fun, because it’s memorable in a good way (compared to the other events I joined this year).

03. 7-Eleven Run 2016

IMG_20160117_041310-01~01
Highway to the safer zone.

Anyone who read my previous 7-Eleven race report/review already knows why the 7-Eleven Run series is one of the best in the country. The freebies alone speak for itself. But, it is worth noting the uniqueness of the race, it’s the only race where you can hydrate with the best brands of drinks in the market. Tired of drinking just Gatorade or water? don’t worry, there’s also Pocari Sweat, Powerade, Summit, and along the way. And after the race, why not help yourself with the overload of freebies at the activity area, supplements, food, hygiene products, just go and grab stuff. There’s even free unlimited ice cream at the Selecta booth, so I didn’t bother going to the nearest fast food restaurant to eat. That’s how good 7-Eleven Run, it’s very rewarding to get so much stuff after a run and with all the freebies, it feels like you just got your registration money back. Let’s see if 7-Eleven can even do better this year, they don’t have to improve because their event it already great, but it would be awesome if they have some surprises under wraps.

02. Valley Trail Challenge 6

vt24
Wet and Wild, the non-perverted way. Photo Credit: Active Pinas.

Trail Running is my favorite genre of running, so it’s a no-brainer that Valley Trail Challenge will always place high on my list. The original plan was to join this event as my first ultramarathon by running the 50k category. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, I had do pick the 25k category. It was the same route as last year but more than 4 kilometers shorter and with some difference on parts of the trail because of the current landscaping in Nuvali. What made it feel different from last year is that this time it rained hard and that added challenge as the trail became muddy and slippery. I enjoyed the experience of running the trail while raining, it’s challenging and refreshing. This year, I’ll try to join the 50k category and to finally explore the whole Nuvali trail.

01. Philippine Marine Corp. Marathon 2

img_20161030_064504-0101
Tough x Rough?

I wanted to join the inaugural Philippine Marine Corp Marathon last year becuase of the interesting venue. But, I don’t wanna join it alone because it’s too far away from home. This year, I finally convinced 2 office mates to join, and it’s finally a reality. Unfortunately, one of us wasn’t able to join because of some circumstance we don’t know and it was only Alvin and I who pushed through (feels like the first time I joined a half-marathon, Alvin is my first running buddy and it’s the two of us again).  The race starts and ends at the Marine Base in Ternate, Cavite and the race route is around the part of Mounts Palay-Palay–Mataas-na-Gulod Protected Landscape. And the event did not disappoint, I love the race route, it’s the best running grounds for me this year. Sure, there’s like kilometers of uphills, but the beautiful scenery made the run enjoyable even if we just walk or jog slowly. We passed by the famous Kaybiang Tunnel, saw the wildlife (snakes, monkeys, hogs roaming free) and scenic side of Ternate, and it feels good to visit Boracay De Cavite again and finally take a dip at the beach. We only joined the 25k category, the full marathon is probably even more awesome and joining that category is already on my mind. Let’s wait and see if I can finally join again this year.

========

EPILOGUE:

The year 2016 has been a great year for me. So many surprises and got a lot of free stuff. I also had my first time for a lot of things. I ran my first marathon, first time to run on BGC, my first out-of-country trip, my first international run, first time to run in Ternate, first time to set foot in Cebu, and ran my first ultramarathon. Also had a few non-running, blogging activities that I enjoyed a lot. As for my view of the running scene, I feel like there has been a drop in participation compared to last year. Some running series that had 3 or more seasons like Energizer Night Run, Salomon City Trail, Rexona Run, Men’s Health Urbanathlon, Greenfield City Run, and Outbreak Manila did not have an event this year. For this year, I look forward to new running events, the first in a series like the highly anticipated arrival of the Spartan Race series in the Philippines as well as continue joining the events that I love as my yearly tradition. I will also try to renew my interest in photography, my first serious hobby, and join other activities that is related to the things interest me and like to do.

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.

vt1
Lining up for the race kit/bib claiming.
vt2
Almost there…
vt3
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.

IMG_20160820_032306-01~01
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.

vt4
Listening to the race director’s announcements. There are no uphills. Remember that.
vt5
25k runners at the starting line.
vt6
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.

IMG_20160820_050810-01~01
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.

IMG_20160820_052618_2CS-01~01
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.

IMG_20160820_054144-01~01
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.

IMG_20160820_054746-01~01
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.

IMG_20160820_055222-01~01
The grass were finely cut at the time, no cows on sight, but….
IMG_20160820_055243-01~01
It looks like it’s about to rain…
IMG_20160820_055345-01~01
Last year was bright and sunny. Nice view of the sunrise. This time, it was dull and cloudy.
IMG_20160820_061708-01~01
No cows on sight. What are they up to? Are they on strike? Are they planning an ambush?
IMG_20160820_055356_1-01
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.

vt8
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.

vt9
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.

IMG_20160820_062758-01~01
The sun came out for a short while. It’s brighter, but the road is still muddy and slippery. Nothing to enjoy there.
IMG_20160820_063824-01~01
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.
IMG_20160820_063939-01~01
DownHell time! for the much-needed momentum.
IMG_20160820_064100-01~01
Where’s the UpHells?
IMG_20160820_065118-01
These steps are always one of the challenging part of the route.
IMG_20160820_065220-01~01
Wooden bridge at the Bird Sanctuary trail.
IMG_20160820_065325-01
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.

vt10
Last 8 kilometers to go…
vt11
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…
vt12
But, one things for sure, I’m always happy running the trails.
IMG_20160820_073101-01~01
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.

IMG_20160820_080830-01~01
26 kilometers at 4 hours and 7 minutes.
vt24
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.
vt23
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).

IMG_20160820_081210-01~01
Slidy, Slippery, Splendid!
IMG_20160820_081154-01~01
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.

vt20
The struggle is real and I’m loving it.
vt13
Almost there and I’m feeling it!
vt22
Gotta get that smile in there…
vt14
Dirty, but looking good…
vt21
Muddy, but not cuddly…
vt16
Just 1, 2 step…
vt15
Touch Down! The Bat has landed!
IMG_20160822_055936-01~01
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

vt17
The hard-earned medal.
vt18
Through the rain, the mud, and the challenges. Congratulations to all the finishers.
IMG_20160820_085937-01~01
Love this year’s medal design.
IMG_20160820_085153-01~01
My shoes took a beating, but it kept me safe.

IMG_20160820_085937-01~01

IMG_20160820_085412-01~01
The loot bag from Universal Robina Corp.
IMG_20160820_102554-01~01
The post-race meal.
vt19
50k next year. Rain or Shine.
Posted in 21k, adventure, backpacking, best moments, fun run, half-marathon, hiking, mountain trekking, pinoyfitness Sub1 10k Challenge, Runmania, Runmania PH, running, running event, sub-1hr 10km, travel, trekking, Uncategorized, Valley Trail Challenge

2015 BEST LIST

The year 2015 was my 2nd year in the running scene and experience has brought me to new heights and going even more distance. Even though I missed some very good running events, I had 12 runs and 2 mountain treks (We also had a Taal Crater tour, but it’s not a mountain) last year, so, it’s not so bad and I had a lot of fun. Here’s the look back at the best of 2015.

*** BEST MOMENT ***

FINISHING MY FIRST FULL TRAIL RUN  (Valley Trail Challenge 2015) 

vtc10
It’s not just seeing the nice scenery, it’s also running on its grounds.

Nothing can beat the experience of running on an all-terrain race route at 3 am in the morning. It has that spooky vibe, the dead silence, the cool temperature, and all you have is your headlamp to guide you. Finishing my very first, long distance, full trail run is the best moment last year. I almost got lost twice, almost tripped and fall, had to go through the heat of the morning sun and battle exhaustion just to survive the 30 kilometer (confirmed actual distance was 32 kilometer) Nuvali trail. I loved the experience so much that joining and finishing the 50k category this year’s Valley Trail Challenge has become one of my top running priorities this year. And that means, this year, I’m running my 1st trail ultramarathon.

Honorable Mentions:

CRAMPS!!! (Resolution Run 2015, 7-Eleven Run 1500, PinoyFitness 21k Challenge)

Ok, I know, having cramps while running is not a good moment, it’s an awful experience. But, I included this as a best moment honorable mention because, for the first time that I experienced it, I was reminded of one of the most important thing in running, “ENDURANCE.” The capability to ignore pain and keep going, endure the suffering, is what defines a good runner. The most painful was during Resolution Run after a downhill stretch during the last 4 kilometers, I experienced the most painful cramps. It was so bad, that I slowed down to walking because I can’t even jog. The worst came in the last 2 kilometers, when the pain intensified when I stupidly bent my knee in annoyance, unbeknownst to me at the time that will only cause more pain. I almost screamed because of the pain and I did a full stop just to recover. Cramps, specifically on my calves, had a recurring role in some of my races, notably in 7-Eleven Run 1500 and PinoyFitness 21k Challenge and it is a big issue when it comes to performance. But, there are some races where they didn’t even occur when I expect them to (especially on long distance races like Valley Trail Challenge, Subaru Marathon, and PNPA Uphill Challenge), so I’m still trying to figure out the most assuring way to avoid cramps. So, the cramps are part of the best moments because it taught me a valuable lesson about endurance and to learn more about the other aspects of running (training, injury prevention, etc.), so, I’m glad I experienced them.

COMPLETING THE PINOYFITNESS CHALLENGES (Pinoyfitness Sub1 10k Challenge and 21k Challenge) 

FB_IMG_1428278920398
Sub1 10k PR Verified! Photo Credit: Adrian Aquino
pf21kchallenge_HandD
Almost out of time, but still managed to solidify that Sub 2:30 21k PR. Photo Credit: My Runti.me

Before joining the PinoyFitness Challenges, I am very capable of running a Sub 1 hour 10k and a Sub 2 1/2 hour 21k. I just need the validation by joining a race with a time limit to get the medal. I’ve done my current fastest 10k PR at Sub 1 10k Challenge as you can see with that teeth out, dimple visible smile. Unfortunately, such is not the case with 21k Challenge. See that sad-looking face, I ran my worst Sub 2:30 21k PR, with only a couple of minutes left on the clock. I struggled during the run, had cramps and felt very exhausted. It’s amazing that I still survived and got that medal. Just happy to have completed both challenges.

DISCOVERING MY FAVORITE MOUNTAIN (Mount Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas)

mbt17
Love this mountain… Future trail run here!?

I’ve joined mountain hikes with friends in Pico De Loro, Mt Buntis + Mt Nagpatong, but, Mount Batulao is the best. I just love the trail despite being too exposed to the sun and too much dirt road. The scenery is just amazing, you can see almost everything around you because you’re on elevated grounds and not surrounded by trees. This is best for trail runners and day hikers especially on cool and windy season.

**** BEST MEDAL ****

PinoyFitness Sub1 10k Challenge 2015 Medal

11036444_1064025526947499_7806763685660895244_n
The way it was sculpted and the overall design is what makes it the best.

Aside from having excellent overall design (love that runner on the medal), the medal is special because you can only get it if you can run 10 kilometers under an hour. It’s an achievement medal, proof that you have improved as a runner.

Honorable Mentions

7-Eleven RUN 1500 Medal

711r8
It’s silver plated, just the right size, and like the Sub1 10k medal, it has a runner on it. I just love it when they put a runner figure on the medal.

Subaru Marathon 21k medal

DSC_5137-01~01
I was surprised it wasn’t shaped like a car. It’s big and it’s a medal from the very first Subaru Marathon. I prefer this hexagon-shaped design over the round medals like the NatGeo 2015 medal.

***** BEST FREEBIES *****

SPONSOR FREEBIES from RUN 1500 (7-Eleven Run 1500)

711r6
You will need a shopping cart or a big box if you wanna haul more.

Nothing beats the stuff you can grab from the sponsors of 7-Eleven Run 1500. Aside from the usual finisher’s kit, you can get energy drinks, fruits, ice cream, boxes of condoms (oh yeah!), chocolates, tumblers, Saucony discount vouchers, personal hygiene products, etc. If you’re very patient, you can fall in line again to haul even more stuff. It’s a hoarder’s delight and very rewarding indeed after that long, exhausting run.

Honorable Mention

Re-energizing kit from Valley Trail Challenge

vtc31
More than enough to get back all the energy lost from that long trail run.

Doesn’t even compare from the stuff you can get from the 7-Eleven Run, but it’s not about what you can hoard, it’s about getting back all the energy you’ve lost during the run. And what you get from Valley Trail Challenge does the job, with a rice meal for breakfast and some deserts and hydration, and they also serve pineapples and bananas. I was so exhausted after my longest run of 2015, but hours later, after eating, re-hydrating and resting, I feel fine again. Oh, and pre-race, you also get Pharmaton vitamins, the ideal supplement to power you up before hitting the long trails. Thanks, FrontRunner for serving the right stuff.

****** BEST SINGLET and FINISHER SHIRT ******

Aside from the time pressure challenges and some of the best designed medals, one of the best reasons to join PinoyFitness events are the singlets and finisher shirts. Like the medals, they are designed to look good and give you the pride of participating in two of the most challenging running events in the country. The best singlet of 2015 for me was the 21k Challenge singlet, whilst the best finisher shirts was the one from Sub1 10k Challenge.

IMG_20160106_115339-01~01
They got the color combination right and that subtle outline of a runner in the logo is just brilliant.
pixlr_20160106212547847
I like the color scheme, especially the addition of the white and red color on the side. The fabric of the shirt is also one of the most comfortable I’ve ever felt, definitely better than most of my finisher shirts. What’s with the reddish splat on the”Finisher” logo at the back? It looks like it was designed for an Outbreak Manila finisher shirt.

******* BEST RUNNING EVENT LOCATION*******

Nuvali

In 2014, Nuvali was my favorite and overall, the best running event location. Last year, it still is. Having a vast area of road and trail is enough to make it the undisputed best racing and training grounds for outdoor events. Recently, I did a training run from outside our home in Mayapa, Calamba City to Solenad in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa and I’ve seen some of the connecting roads of Mayapa, Canlubang, Cabuyao, and Nuvali which is 12+ kilometers in total and is just fine for those who want to do LSD training. Having discovered even more of Nuvali’s trail and scenic places nearby, made it my choice again as the best running event location. Because of Resolution Run 2015, I discovered the beautiful uphill area of Casile, Cabuyao overlooking Canlubang Golf and Country Club and the Marcos Twin Mansion. And because of Valley Trail Challenge 2015, I’ve seen and experience even more of the Nuvali trails, especially the scenic and famous “New Zealand trail.”

vtc12
The Nuvali trails is much larger than you think. This is why this year, I plan to have my first 50k trail Ultramarathon here to see and experience more.

Honorable Mention

The Skyway

For the first time, I experienced running on the SkyWay last year. I ran twice, a 6k at The Condura Skyway Marathon and a 21k at 7-Eleven Run 1500. It was a great experience. I love the pollution-free road and it was a cool night and it helped with body temperature regulation. The sights of the city also looks nice, the city lights create their own scenic environment. I’ll be running again on the Skyway twice this year, first a half-marathon at 7-Eleven Run 2016 and then my very first full marathon at The Condura SkyWay Marathon.

21470-E
It was a great night to run, the cool temperature, scenic moon and cityscape view, long roads, and energetic crowd. That’s why the Skyway is one of the best and exclusive running grounds.

*******RUNNING EVENT RANKINGS*******

Last year, I participated in 12 running events. Some of them are so good that that they instantly became a favorite and should not be missed next year. Whilst some runs are just okay, there are others that are just not worth it and you’re better off to do a training run  instead. Here are the running events as ranked from worst to best. 

12. PaRUN ng COWBOY

cow3
The complete Cowboy Runner look. Photo Credit: Red Knight

I joined this run because of the reasonable price of 650 php for the 10k category and you get a nice two-tone black and red singlet, a cowboy hat, a red handkerchief, and a sheriff star medal to complete the cowboy look. It turned out to be a dud for me. The race started way passed the proposed 5am gunstart (maybe I should be thankful because I got there late) and because of the delayed start, by the time the 10k runners passed half of the running distance, it was already hot and the aid stations rarely have ice water. But, likely the reason I did not enjoy the run is because I ran at Filinvest City hours ago, it was Color Manila: Black Light Edition which was actually a more energetic and ‘fun’ run than this. It’s like you just ate the most delicious meal (CM: Black Light) moments ago and then the dessert (this run) tastes bitter. At least, it was a run for a cause, so even if I didn’t like the run, I contributed for a good cause.

11. Laguna RUN

IMG_20150531_091206~01
Wrong size finisher shirt, a dull-looking medal, and a certificate of completion. The run is just an ordinary one.

This run seemed good as advertised, for only 650 php, you get to run the cheapest 21k category in recent times, plus you get a finisher shirt, a medal, and a trophy. Even better is you get to run in Nuvali, one of the best and my current favorite running grounds. Then it turns out to be another case of good advertising, bad execution. The was obviously not organized by an experienced running event organizer. The run just started all of a sudden without warm up or introduction, they ran out of the right size finisher shirts (what’s the point of indicating your preferred shirts size if you’re not gonna get them anyway?), trophies are only for top 10 finishers (something they didn’t point out on the ad posters), the medal is low quality (it now has some rust), and why the hell do we have a politician’s name and logo behind our singlet? if it was a free, politician-sponsored run, that’s okay, but we paid for this. The singlet color scheme (pink, blue, and white for 21k) alone was bad, a politician’s name and logo only made it worst. There were also no official or volunteer photographers (except for the 5k category where the politician ran). The only good thing about this run was the location, but I could’ve just done a training run and used my 650 php for other runs or things instead. Never again for this run.

10. National Geographic Run 2015

ngrank
It was an okay run. At least I had some running buddies with me.

I joined the NatGeo Run because it is one of the most popular running events in the country. Just curious to see what it’s all about. I also managed to convince some of my office mates to join this run. All I can say is, it’s not a good experience for me, it’s not a bad running event, but compared to the runs I participated in before this, it’s just below average for me. The finisher’s kit and freebies is just frugal, something you don’t expect from the biggest running event organizer in the country. You get the finisher shirt, an eco bag, a small tube skin disease treatment (from a sponsor), pocari sweat, that’s it. And since this is a volume run (I heard 24,000+ participants in all categories), if you register late, you won’t get your preferred singlet and finisher shirt size (happened to us). At least the medal is of good quality. The event also became subject of runners’ etiquette as a photo of the road littered with plastic cups and the trash bin seemed like it wasn’t even half full circulated in social media (come on, guys, it only takes a second or two to put that cup inside the trash bin). Would I join this year’s NatGeo Run? I’m not sure yet. It will depend on the registration price and the location.

09. PinoyFitness 21k Challenge

pf2kc
At the first half of the run, I was still in good shape, in a good mood. The 2nd half is where $h!t got real.

After successfully finishing PinoyFitness 10k Challenge, I got excited and look forward to getting a Sub 2 hours and 30 minutes 21k medal. I know sub 2 is way too much in regards to my current physical condition, but sub 2:30 is something I can confidently say “easy work.” Four of the five 21k runs I did were all Sub 2:30, so I know that I can do it. Then I found out that the race consisted of 2 loops around Pasay and SM Mall of Asia area instead of the usual route going to Luneta and Baclaran then back to Mall of Asia. I’ve never done a looping 21k before, but I thought it was still going to be another easy run. I though wrong. I think the race route was repetitive and because of that, I lost motivation on the 12th kilometer onwards. I got cramps and feel very exhausted to the point that I don’t think I can make the time limit and even thought about going DNF. But, the runner in me reminded me that it’s better to finish than to quit. So, I did and still got my medal with only 2 minutes left on the clock. I did not enjoy the run especially because I felt like a newbie trying hard to achieve something that normally would’ve been easy.  I was spent physically and mentally. I like what I got from the race, the singlet, finisher shirt, and more importantly, the medal. It is  a symbol of achievement, reminding me of what I had to go through to get it and that alone was reason enough to place this higher than the other running events. Would I join this running event again? Probably, but it will depend on the event location and race route.

08. Condura SkyWay Marathon 2015

csm6
Our first Condura Skyway Marathon experience.

Like NatGeo Run, I wanted to see what Condura Skyway Marathon, one of the most popular and prestigious running event in the country, is like. The experience was better than NatGeo Run and since I only ran 6k (due to the high registration price), it was a preview of what it was like to run on the Skyway. The race also resulted with my unexpected 6k PR with an official chip time of 33 minutes and 03 seconds, and official rank  number 35 out of 1381 runners. Overall, I was satisfied with the event, the only downside was like the NatGeo Run, it was also a big event by the biggest running event organizer in the country, but offers frugal post-race freebies (considering the high registration price of 900 php just for a 6k category).

07. PinoyFitness Sub1 10k Challenge

20150329_131745_1
Solidified, Verified, Authenticated my Sub1 10k PR.

Back in 2014, I just started running 10k and it was really hard for me to hit a  sub1 PR. It was in early 2015 that I started doing it properly on my training runs. So, all I need is to solidify my PR by getting an exclusive sub1 10k medal (a medal that can only be achieved by successfully finishing a 10 kilometer run in under an hour) and only PinoyFitness offers that challenge. I joined the race and even before it started, I was nervous, thinking ‘what if this is one of those runs where something could go wrong and I fail.’ I just ran my usual pace, slightly a bit faster than my training runs because I was very motivated, and successfully set my 10k PR. I enjoyed the race for being a real challenge, one that can only be achieved if you stepped up your game and ascended your fitness level. I got the best-looking medal and finisher shirt I got this year, so I’m very very satisfied.

06. Subaru Marathon

sbrm4
It was the right of everything, the right pace, the right weather condition, the right comeback. Photo credit: Team aRUNkada.

Subaru Marathon was my comeback run after a 2-month break from running events. It was also the very 1st Subaru run in the country, so it’s special to be part of the 1st in a series. I would say that this race got everything right, it was the right comeback run for me, it had right the weather, the right race kit (because blue is very appealing and the design is simple, but nice), and the right location (although I never really like the RunRio Mall of Asia race route, the city is the right race route for this kind of theme). I have nothing bad to say about this, just a lot of ‘rights’ and none of the ‘wrongs.’

05. Color Manila: Black Light Edition

cm11
Live with colors and energy.

The luckiest moment for me last year was winning a race kit for Color Manila: Black Light Edition from a Filinvest City facebook page contest. I really wanted to join this run because of the race kit and the event location, but I had some funding troubles at the time, so I was very thankful for winning that contest. And the race didn’t disappoint, like any other Color Manila Run it was festive and energetic, it’s a real ‘fun run.’ The Black Light theme was really a great sight at night. The Color Festival party, the main highlight or the post-race concert/party of the Color Manila series was loud and fun as ever (too bad we didn’t stay long to finish it because I still have that paRUN ng Cowboy run hours later). It was definitely better than the ‘Glow Paint Edition’ we joined in 2014. And best of all, I got the cool Brother Ink pillow that I always wanted, which now rests inside our car. I hope Color Manila continues to make great concepts like this, they’re worth the money if you like to run and party with friends.

04. Resolution Run 2015

rsrbyrunlipa
It was painful, but fun experience. Photo Credit: Run Lipa

Resolution Run was the best way I started 2015, running on the 1st month of that year, at my favorite running location, and it introduced me to Runmania events, best known for organizing races with scenic routes. This run was also a surprise for me, I already know the race route, but I was surprised by how good it was. It was the first time I ran in total darkness with only a headlamp to guide me and the first time I ran on the other scenic places near Nuvali like the Bgy Casile uphill route where you can see the Canlubang Golf and Country Club and the famous Marcos Twin Mansion. The race also gave me a memorable experience of extreme pain because for the first time in running, I felt the most painful cramps ever. Still, the satisfaction of overcoming adversity and finishing the race is one that I will never forget from last year.

03. PNPA Uphill Challenge

IMG_20151206_081622-01~01
Closing the year 2015 with an injury-free and satisfying run.

I joined the PNPA Uphill Challenge as something of a revenge run to myself after the lackluster PinoyFitness 21k Challenge performance. I ran with relaxation in mind (as opposed to running with a PR in mind) and to find the right pace in preparation for my first marathon this year. It was a success, I finished the race injury-free and satisfied with closing a year with a good run. I also bumped into a long time running buddy along the way and I enjoyed the scenic route that organizer, Runmania, never fails to deliver.

02. 7-Eleven Run 1500

711r7
Met this girl, Adra who was just a few meters away from me at the finish line only to find out that she was from the 2nd wave of 21k runners. Meaning, she was still faster because I had a 5 minute head start.

The 6k run from Condura Skyway Marathon 2015 was just the appetizer, the 21k run of 7-Eleven Run 1500 was the entrée (because the main course was the 42k). When I heard about the 7-Eleven Run series, the thing I hear people talk about the most is the overflowing hydration and the bag (or boxes) full of freebies. They weren’t kidding. When it comes to hydration, they are placed around the Skyway and you can drink almost all of the sports drink brands out there, you have a Gatorade, Powerade, Pocari Sweat, Bacchus, Red Bull, and more. And the freebies were truly like grabbing stuff from a grocery store, you can get personal hygiene products, ice cream, fruits, tumblers, boxes of condoms to name a few. This is the best value running event because aside from the experience of running on the skyway, the freebies you get is well worth the registration price. That is why I’m already registered for this year’s 7-Eleven Run.

and the best running event of 2015 for me is…

01. VALLEY TRAIL CHALLENGE 2015

vtc7
It was the longest distance I’ve ran last year and my first full trail run. It’s also my best running experience last year.

The most memorable experience for me last year was running my first 30 kilometer (actual distance was 32 km) trail run. Nothing beats the thrills of running at 3 am in the morning on the trails, complete darkness with only a headlamp to help you navigate. The event is also one of the best organized race I’ve ever joined, gotta love the food and drinks at the aid stations and the race route is the best, love the fresh air, the scenic view, and the great weather at the time (cool at night, a bit hot at 7am). It also has a time limit (6 hours for 30k category), so you know that getting that medal is special, a great achievement because you worked hard for it. The run was so good that I already made the decision to run my first trail ultramarathon on this year’s Valley Trail Challenge. See you at the trails.

.

.

.

EPILOGUE:

Last year was all about performance improvement while still having a great time. Back in 2014, I was struggling to even make a sub 30 minute 5k PR and it was only in the later part of the year that I was able to achieve it. In 2015, I was able to do a sub1 10k and a sub 2:30 21k at will and I was able to solidify it with the completion of the PinoyFitness challenges. I was also able to endure pain and learned more about how I can prevent them in the future. Running my first full trail run was the best, and that is why I plan to join more this year. I was very disappointed to have missed some good running events (especially obstacle runs) like the Guerilla Race series, TNF 100, Salomon City Trail, the Run United Trilogy, Outbreak Manila, and Men’s Health Urbanathlon due to limited budget or resources and other reasons, but I still had a great year with some of the races I participated in. This year, I’m looking forward to running my first marathon, my first trail ultramarathon, joining more obstacle runs, the return to Outbreak Manila, and finally completing the Run United trilogy. For now, I just have to keep training to be in the proper condition when race day comes.

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.