Three years ago on July 31, 2011, I made my Personal Record Time to reach the peak of the famous Hill Taklang Damulag from Fernandez Hill inside the “Molave Complex” of Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City. I was able to record a finish time of 52:37 minutes where the highest peak has an elevation of 409 meters with a route distance of 2.7 kilometers. I started to record my Garmin Forerunner 305 once I departed the marker at Fernandez Hill until I was able to touch the white-painted Cross on top of the peak of Taklang Damulag. My hike was only one-way as I was able to descend on the northeastern part of the hill towards Sitio Baccao.
In this post where I stated about my experience in this blog, I mentioned that that such distance as a race course is very short and the elevation of the mountain/hill is very low but if one thinks of running up and down to this mountain for four times in a single event, then you have a workout like you have hiked or run to the top and back in a high mountain.
A year after my hike from Fernandez Hill To the Peak of Hill Taklang Damulag, I invited some of my running friends to join a formal race which I called “FKT @ Taklang Damulag” which I consider as the FIRST Fastest Known Time (FKT) Trail Run In The Country which was attended by only five (5) runners. The Course Record for the Event was made by Dannin Arenzana with a time of 59:32 minutes! The following is the story about it: http://baldrunner.com/?s=FKT+%40+Taklang+Damulag
On the first day of this year’s Taklang Damulag 100-Mile & 50-Mile Endurance Runs which happened last December 13-14, 2014, I thought of having my training run by doing some “hill repeats” from Fernandez Hill Marker to the Peak of Taklang Damulag and back. On this day, I was scheduled to finish a distance of 10 miles or 16 kilometers.
I carried one hand-held bottle with the intention of making my refilling of water at the Fernandez Hill Complex where the Aid Station of the Race is located every time I finish one repetition of the hill repeat which is equivalent to one FKT (Fastest Known Time) route. I also used my ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 shoes for the traction I need for the downhill run back to the starting area.
I started slowly and tried to peak up my pace whenever there is a flat portion of the route. I continuously jog my way up along the trail as I passed the usual three (3) streams on the first kilometer of the route. The trail was slippery due to damp brought about by a light shower of rain the night before. It was no problem to my trail shoes. I was surprised that I was tirelessly going up along the trail and breathing heavily but I could not feel that I was getting tired. I felt fine and my HR Monitor showed that I was on the mid-130s of my Heart Rate. I said there is no way that my heart rate is too low despite the intensity of my pace.
The trail route became more challenging due to the presence of rocks which were eroded as part of the widening and improvement of the trail few years ago. A simple mistake of stepping on these rocks would make someone trip or fall on the ground due to imbalance of one’s footing. One has to be careful to land each foot due to the unevenness of the single-track trail. I knew that I would be able to reach the first Rest Station which is a concrete “waiting station” after making a sharp left turn/switchback and I was still maintaining my jog.
After a few minutes, I was able to reach the Second Rest Station and I readied myself for the start of the steepest portion of the trail. Two years ago, there was a Bamboo Hand Rail standing and supported by two bamboo posts where one could hold as you plant your feet higher and higher towards the peak. All I could see was old wooden cross along the trail and it warns me that I was only 300 meters away from the peak of the Hill. Slowly, the steep part of the trail became lesser in incline and I know that I was about to reach the marker telling all the hikers that the Peak of the Hill is very near.
Finally, one has to get his satisfaction of reaching the peak of the mountain when you see a pathway made of rocks. These pathway of rocks leads to the Concrete White Cross on the Peak of the Hill. As soon as I reached the White Cross, I had to touch/tap it and I was on my way back to the trail where I came from and back to the Fernandez Hill Complex. I glanced on my Garmin Watch and it registered a time of 31:32 minutes!!!
I was excited to find out how fast I was even if I did not recall what was my recorded time on my first timed ascent to this hill 3 years ago. I knew that I was faster than my first attempt. So happy about my performance, I tried to stay focused on my run back to my starting area. I took time to avoid those rocks and not to be very aggressive on the downhill run. My ALTRA Lone Peak 1.5 was very responsive and I did not have any slip or slide on the damp surface of the trail and on the rocks. I did not hike or stopped along the way except when I had to slowly approach and cross the three streams along the route. I was very attentive to my footing and I could not afford to break my ankles or trip my foot or fall on the ground due to some mistakes.
I still had water in my hand-held water bottle as I got nearer to the finish line. It was still cold in the early morning when I started my run but I would take some sip of water as soon I started sweating during my uphill climb to the peak of the hill. Once I reached the flatter sections of the trail, I would sip again some water from my bottle and this ritual was repeated every 5 minutes until I reached the starting line. After I crossed my imaginary finish line at the Fernandez Hill, I glanced at my Garmin Forerunner Watch and it registered a time of 1:11+ hours! Not bad!
I think I was able to rest for about 2-3 minutes by refilling my hand-held water bottle and by walking to the location of the Water Hydration Point at the Aid Station located at the View Deck of Fernandez Hill and back to the starting line. It was time to go back again to the Peak for my 2nd Repeat.
Prior to my start of my first run to the peak, a group of soldiers from the Special Forces Regiment were dropped by a 6 X 6 Military Truck by about 400 meters ahead of my starting area and they were ahead of me by almost 15 minutes. On my last 500 meters before reaching the Peak of the Hill, I was able to pass them one by one. They were carrying their backpacks, some carpentry tools and digging tools, too! Aside from the soldiers who are stationed at the Peak of the Hill, I have also those soldiers whom I have passed along the trail as my witnesses for my run towards the Peak.
I just took my time and maintained my jogging for my second repeat of my climb to the peak of Taklang Damulag. The soldiers stationed at the peak of the hill were surprised to see me back to their location as I immediately proceeded back to the starting line after I tapped the White Concrete Cross. Once again, I was very slow and focused to my footing as I descended from the hill and I was bale to avoid those rocks scattered on some portions of the trail.
My ritual once I arrived at the Fernandez Hill area was the same—walk to the View Deck; refill my water bottles; and walk again back to the starting line. I was already on my third repeat back to the peak of the hill as the sun was coming out from the clouds. It was starting to get hot as I was running on my first kilometer of my third ascent to the hill. I had to drink more water from my hydration bottle as I progressed to the peak of the hill. Five hundred meters from the peak, I started to meet those soldiers who have finished their job/task as they descended back to Fernandez Hill. They greeted me and surprised that I was back again towards to the peak of the hill. I just thanked them for their greetings and smiled at them as I continued my jogging.
For the third time, I made a tap to the concrete white cross and asked one of the soldiers for some water to douse my head and face as I could feel already the heat of the sun. It was already 11:00 AM. I took a sit on a chair while the soldier got me a half liter of water. I immediately doused the water on my head and on my buff and it gave me some comfort and relaxed feeling. After saying “Thank You” to the soldier, I was back on the trail back to the starting line.
One kilometer away from the starting line, I started to meet the first two runners of the 50-mile race and then the third runner on my last 500 meters. I had to side-step and stand still on the side of the single-track trail as I wait for the runner to pass me. I would greet and cheer them as they continue their climb.
I was thinking of doing my fourth repeat to the peak while I was on my last 200 meters to the starting line at the Fernandez Hill. I finally decided to take some time to rest and then eat some solid food at the Aid Station before I would decide to continue or not for my 4th and last climb for the day.
After I ate my lunch, I looked back on my watch and found out that I was able to run a total of 10+ miles and my programmed schedule for the day was already attained and complied. So, I finally decided to end my run for the day and made already a plan to do another “hill repeats” on the following day.
I know that this “crazy” effort that I’ve done is spreading from one soldier and Officer to another in Fort Magsaysay and by this time, it is already well-known for the entire Philippine Army. I consider this feat as a record for me (62 years old) and as a Retired Major General of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. And I will be coming back to improve this record in the coming years, whether it will be the fastest time for the climb to the peak and back to Fernandez Hill or for the number of times that I could do on the “hill repeats” in one day/setting.
Who knows, this could be the birth of another challenging trail running event in Taklang Damulag—-“Taklang Damulag FKT Challenge” (6 Hours & 12 Hours Timed Event) where the one with the most number of “hill repeats” wins the event.
The following link is the detailed record of the data of my run:http://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/651295464
Taklang Damulag will forever be a symbol and something to treasure in one’s life in the Philippine Army.