Why I Love Trail Running

28 04 2014

Tell me a place within Metro Manila where you have a dirt path/road where you can do some trail running. I guess, there is none. That is the problem when our urban planners do not value the need of a place within the city where we can enjoy the environment of the outdoors. I know of some golf courses in the city but you can rarely see trails inside these golf courses and most of them are restricted from pedestrians.

There are places within reach in Metro Manila for about 30-minute drive from the main populated areas but you can not still escape the dirty surroundings of garbage and poor quality of air due to industrial plants’ and vehicles’ fumes. One has to travel at least 1-2 hours away from Metro Manila in order to reach the mountains of Tanay, Tagaytay, Laguna and Cavite. If you have determined a specific trail/s on these places, you can enjoy the outdoors and have a pure experience on trail running away from the populace and the traffic of vehicles.

For the past 10 months, I have permanently shifted to trail running and I had been in the mountains of Fort Magsaysay, Subic, Bataan and Pampanga. These are the following reasons why I love trail running:

1. The Best Air Quality For The Body-–One has to breath a lot of air/oxygen when you are in the trail, whether you are hiking or running. But there is no need to worry as the air you are breathing are pure and unadulterated. The plants and trees all around you will be happy to have your carbon dioxide that you breath out from your lungs! Sometimes, cold winds from the mountains and the sea would hit your body and the feeling is something that is invigorating! Our lungs would be happy to have fresh air to our body. Being away from the populated areas and busy highways/streets, you have a bigger chances of breathing better quality of air. The more you run in the mountains, you have better air to breath. And once you reach the forest, the air is cooler and you have the best air quality in the area. Sometimes, there are places where it is hot and humid but simply hydrating oneself regularly would solve the problem. There are also creeks and streams where you one can douse cold water to your hot body.

2. Strengthens Joints Up To The Smallest Muscles, Cartilages, and Tendons—Due to the varied condition of the ground, our feet would land to the ground in different and varied positions and this condition would have a “domino effect” on how our muscles, joints, tendons and cartilages would react on how we run. Instead of being “on the zone” when you are in a road running event, your body is always on alert on the varied conditions of the terrain where you are running. I have observed that my feet and the muscles of my legs had become stronger and I no longer experience any cramps on my calves. Surprisingly, my problem with my right achilles tendonitis just disappeared. As for my knees, I would be able to manage the pain better if I run on the trails because of the softer feeling as my feet would strike the ground.

3. Exercise For The Brain For Quick Decisions—Trail Running makes you aware on what to expect on the 3-10 meters in front of you. Due to the variation of elevation and contour of the trail, whether it is ascending or descending, your thinking process is very active. You have to make quick decisions on how you manage the uphills and downhills depending on your capability. If there are rocks or debris (branches; twigs; and leaves on the ground), one should be quick to decide if you have to jump over or just simply step on them. In crossing rivers, creeks, and streams, one has to quickly see and determine the exposed rocks where one could land ones feet in order to keep ones shoes from being wet. I’ve seen a lot of runners who slipped on muddy trails or tripped on dry trails due to poor or lack of decision.

4. Commune With Nature—If you are running the whole trail course, this reason is a flimsy one as you don’t have the time to appreciate your environment. You don’t have time to look around as your concentration and focus will be the trail in front of you. However, it is suggested that you should rest and sit for awhile on a vantage position where one can observe the surroundings. A camera from ones phone would be appropriate to record and journalize the things that you want to capture as a remembrance on the trail that you have been. Appreciate the surrounding mountains, hills, trees, grasses, and the birds in the area. Take time to breath the air as one would rest within the trail route. One should avoid picking edible fruits along the way; picking some flowers; or bringing home some orchids or ornamental plants from the mountains. It’s enough that one should clean the trails from grasses; thorny vines; and branches of plants. At all costs, we have to preserve the environment if we really dedicated to commune with nature.

5. Gain More Information—With the aid of my Garmin Watch, I would be able to pinpoint and establish prominent features in order to establish kilometer markers along the way. By talking to persons I meet along the trail, I would be able to know the name of the place; what direction the trail would lead me or find out where I can get water resupply from the creeks and streams within the area. It is automatic for me to greet the persons I meet along the trail and tell them what I am doing in the area and where I came from. Don’t let the people within the area come up with some suspicion about your intention in the area, it is much better if you talk to them and hear your purpose in the area. If you drop by a hut/house in the area for your water resupply, find time to talk to the owner or anybody staying in the place. There is a big chance that you will be dropping by that place again in the future.

6. Immersion With The Mountain People-–For many instances, I have requested the mountain people/Aetas to act as guide/s in my trail running adventures. I have known how they live in the mountains and how they earn a living. These Aetas were resettled in the area as a result of the eruption of Mt Pinatubo and most of them  came from Zambales. Through my immersion with them for those long hours that I would hike on the mountain trails, I was able to find out how they clean some patches of forested areas in the mountains where they can plant bananas, root crops and vegetables. They cut trees and make them as charcoal in the deep forested areas and carry them in sacks for them to be delivered in their respective resettlement areas where merchants would buy and bring these sacks of charcoal on trucks or vehicles. They would also hunt for wild pigs, monkeys, big lizards (bayawak), wild chicken, and bats for their meat. And during summer, they would look for beehives and gather raw honey from them. And worse, they are free to cut any trees in the forest (without any permit from the local DENR) in the guise that the said lumber will be used to construct or repair of their huts/house in the resettlement areas. How I wish the local government would have the time to immerse themselves with these mountain people for them to know what is happening to the environment and our natural resources. I doubt if these mountain people have any activity to reforest or bring back the vegetation in the mountains. (Note: It had been my habit to bring packs of cigarettes and/or cans of sardines to be given to my friends in the mountains during my regular training runs)

7. Explore The Unknown-–Since I don’t carry any compass, GPS, or map, I just try to look at the horizon and ask my training partner to reach a certain feature on the ground or follow a trailhead and see for ourselves where the trail would lead us. If we are running in our usual trail loop/route and if we see an intersection, we had to explore where the new trail would lead us. This is where we would be surprised to see a more unique and better environment and sights to be seen as offered by the natural resources in the mountains. This is how we discovered our water resupply points and places where we could spend some rest and take our lunch. What surprised me most is the presence of gates and fences in the mountains. It means that somebody has already acquired such area bounded by the fences as a personal property. I wonder how could that be when these mountains are considered as Natural/National Parks.

8. Share One’s Experience To Others—Definitely, the end purpose of these trail running is to come up with a trail running course/route for a trail running event for everybody to experience. It would be best that my trail running events will not be sponsored by corporate brands and I want my events to be exclusively for those who trained and prepared for the event. I really don’t care if I have only four or three runner-participants in these events. The lesser number of participants, the better for the trails and the mountains. I would envision also that the populace within the route would also earn a living out of these events as they provide fresh produce from their orchard to the runners or act as guides/marshals in key intersections in the trail route. If I am training for a particular ultra trail event, I usually share my experiences and the sights I’ve been into in this blog or through Facebook through pictures and stories.

9. Faster Recovery-–This is the most kept secret among trail runners! Whether it is a 2-hour trail run or 12-hour trail hike, I could recover easily after a day or 24 hours! All I need is to stretch properly after the run; hydrate and replenish the fluids that I lost during the workout; take a shower; eat my dinner, and then sleep at least 8 hours. Sometimes, a massage before going to bed contributes to a faster recover but I seldom have that for the past two months of my training. With my age, if I do a 2-hour run on the road, it would take me another 48 hours to recover before I could run again.

10. Specificity Of Training—Obviously, if one is preparing for a trail running event, he/she  has to spend more time running in the trails. If you are preparing for a trail ultra, you have to do your training on the trail that has almost the same elevation profile with the race you are going to participate (and have registered). Since I’ve shifted my running races to ultra trail running, I had chosen to spend most of my training in the mountain trails.

My Snappy Salute To All Mountain Trail Runners!

My Snappy Salute To All Mountain Trail Runners!

Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/baldrunner/media_set?set=a.10203168797314451.1073741953.1043179758&type=1





1st Mt Natib 50K Trail Run (FKT)

25 04 2014

For the past nine (9) months, I have considered this trail route from Roosevelt National Park in Dinalupihan, Bataan up to the peak of Mt Natib as a personal obsession to explore an all-trail route as a part of my training playground. I can personally call this the Mt Natib’s North Trail Route.

After the PNOC made some testing and exploration up to the peak of Mt Natib in the ’80s in order to discover geothermal energy source in the Bataan Natural Park, the government left a dirt road and some gravel road from the Roman Highway in Orani, Bataan up to Barangay Tala and then further up to the base camp (Camp 06) before the final assault to the peak of Mt Natib. Through the years, the road from the highway to Barangay Tala was paved/cemented as part of the development in the area. What was left was a 7-kilometer trail/dirt road from the trailhead to the peak of Mt Natib. This is the traditional and well-known route for hikers and mountaineers who would like to camp and visit the peak of the said mountain. I personally call it the South Approach to Mt Natib.

I’ve used this traditional route for two times: first, when I went to peak bag Mt Natib with escorts from the Philippine Army; and second, when I brought some of my ultra running friends to conduct an “Operation Linis” to collect the trashes left by visitors and campers at the peak of the mountain and the trail that leads to it. It was a successful event wherein I tied up the effort with the Philippine Army operating in the area.

Fast forward. After two years since my last visit to the mountain, I’ve started to concentrate more of my running workouts/training in trail running. It was in July last year (2013) when I started trying to explore the possibility of coming up with a trail route coming from my first playground area from the North Approach going to the peak of Mt Natib. And it was only in November of last year that I was able to trace the trail that connects to the place called “Binutas”, considered as the Gateway To Natib.

The distance is measured, through my Garmin Watch, as 20.7 kilometers from the place I started my trek up to Binutas, from an elevation of 40 MASL to 900 MASL , with a Total Elevation Gain of 8,000 feet. From Binutas up to the peak of Mt Natib has a distance of 5 Kilometers with a Total Elevation Gain of 1,500 feet.

I would make the trail course from the trailhead up to “Binutas” as my long trek on weekends (at least, once a month) and named this course as my “Playground Bravo”. With a “pit stop” in my friend’s place, Weeler Orogo, on my way up to “Binutas” and then going down to where I’ve started, I would register 11-12 hours workout in the mountain. I would bring my lunch and some bite foods in my pack and would have our resupply of water at Weeler’s place and at Barangay Mabiga.

I came up with an Event Page on Facebook about a trail running event which I dubbed as the “Playground BRAVO” 50K Trail Run (1st Mt Natib 50K Trail Run) but I made sure that only those who are well-seasoned trail runners are accepted to join the event. The final requirement to join this race was my personal knowledge on the capability of the participant. I really did not care if I had ONLY ONE participant for the event. What was important was the fact that a proof that this trail route is doable and find out whatever feedback (positive or negative) I could gather from the participants.

My Ever Loyal "Usual Suspects" In My Races

My Ever Loyal “Usual Suspects” In My Races

Four runners registered for the event with a registration fee of P 900.00 for each runner. I came up with three (3) water resupply points, to include an Aid Station at “Binutas” where Jollibee packed lunch was available to the runners with Soda, Gatorade, Ice Candies (Joy-Joy), Ensaymada, Hard Boiled Eggs, and Rice Cake.

Aid Station (Vehicle) @ "Binutas"

Aid Station (Vehicle) @ “Binutas”

After serving the participants with coffee and full breakfast, the race started at exactly 5:30 AM with four (4) participants, 3 males and 1 female.

To ensure safety and confidence to the runners, I provided a “pacer/guide” for the leading runner/s and a “safety marshal” for the last runner. I also gave specific instructions to the runners to be extra careful and deliberate in their footing and trekking on the final assault and descent to and from the peak of Mt Natib as there will be “rappelling” portions to be done on the rocks towards the peak.

As the race progressed through the day, the first 3 runners with the “guide/pacer” arrived at the “Binutas” area in 6:00 hours, to include a 40-minute “pit stop” at Weeler Orogo’s place as the group waited for the last runner. The last runner with the safety marshal arrived after two hours and I advised the runner not to proceed to the peak anymore. For the safety of the runner, I declared the runner as DNF.

Three Runners With Guide Arriving @ "Binutas"

Three Runners With Guide Arriving @ “Binutas”

After nine (9) hours, the three (3) runners with their guide arrived at “Binutas” after coming from the peak of Mt Natib. They were still strong and determined to finish the race. Their last 20 kilometers were all downhill with about 3-4 kilometers of uphill and I would expect them to be arriving at the Finish Area at nighttime!

The following is the Official Result of the 1st Mt Natib 50K Trail Run:

RANK       RACE BIB #               NAME                                             TIME (Hours)

1                      160             Ronnel Go (Champion)                              13:44:45

2                        1                Graciano Santos (1st Runner-Up)        13:45:23

3                        8                Jon Borbon (2nd Runner-Up)               13:52:50

Aside from the “forest” section of the course which is 2-3 kilometers before reaching “Binutas” where the participants encountered sharp blade of grasses, thick vegetation along the trail and thorny vines and plants on each side of the trail, the trail could be runnable or could be negotiated with faster hiking speed.

The finishers told me that they hiked the whole course except for the downhill portions on their way back to the finish line. They were fully satisfied that they have finished a very challenging trail course. One of the runners had also strongly suggested that I could submit the course as a UTMB qualifier. However, unanimously, all the tree runners would like to return to do another race event on the same course for them to improve their finish times. But they suggested that trail course is not really for “first-timer” trail runners.

Included in their post-race dinner/buffet is a Finisher’s T-Shirt and Podium Trophy for each of the Finishers.

Personally, I consider the trail event as a success even with only 4 starters with 3 as finishers. I was able to prove that with a seasoned trail runner, the North Trail to the peak of Mt Natib is doable and runnable. I would be happy if I will have at least ten (10) runners for the next edition of this event.

Officially, this is the First Edition of the Mt Natib 50K Trail Run! Congratulations to all the Finishers!

Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/baldrunner/media_set?set=a.10203065381649124.1073741930.1043179758&type=3





Downhill Running

24 04 2014

For an old runner like me and had a history of running-related injury on my knees, I need to be extra careful and very deliberate on my steps when I am faced with a steep downhill part of the course. This contributed much in my ability to run slower in my races. How I wish I would turn back the clock when I did not have any fear and took advantage of those downhill parts of the course to gain more speed and regain the time that I have lost in the ascending parts of the route.

Easy Pace In Downhill Running

Easy Pace In Downhill Running

I could see my elite trail runners and training partners to be “flying” on the air and spreading their gait to the maximum in order to gain more distance in every step they make on the downhill. I could see that they just simply “float”; bend their upper body forward; swing their hands farther and stretch their legs with a wider stance as their feet barely touch the ground.  Only young and fast runners could do this kind of running downhill.

Easy On The Old Knees

Easy On The Old Knees

Downhill running was my “weakness” and one of the main reasons why I did not finish in last year’s TNF 100-Kilometer Trail Run. Aside from the knee injury I had which was not yet fully healed prior to the race, I was surprised to be running within the part of the course which I was not able to recon or practice on it. The  11-12 kilometer distance of the Barangay Alang part of the course is a steep road consisting of paved/cemented road and hard dirt road. The steepness of the road gave some pain on my knees that I was forced to simply hike/walk throughout the distance. Coupled with the heat of the sun that went directly hitting the runners, I was sweating profusely and I was on the verge of being dehydrated. Simply put, this part of the course just simply put the “nails to my coffin”, so to speak, in order for me to be over exhausted and weak. Even if I was able to refuel, rest and re-hydrate myself at the Aid Station on the halfway mark of the course, I was able to spend so much of my time and I was already thinking of ending the race.

2013 TNF 100 Picture @ Barangay Alang Route

2013 TNF 100 Picture @ Barangay Alang Route

I tried to continue the race but after hiking for 500 meters, my knees and quads were not cooperating. It was time to preserve the weak body and prepare to recover as I decided to DNF in the race.

Running Form Will Do The Trick!

Running Form Will Do The Trick!

Aside from training for the downhill running along the trails for the past 11 months, I made sure to have a taste of running downhill on a cemented road in my playground, just like the road at Barangay Alang. Eleven months ago when I started training for my ultra trail runs, I discovered this place which is a part of my Playground “Bravo” 50K Trail Run course and I promised myself to train for hill repeats in this place in order for me to be properly prepared for the Alang portion of the TNF 100 course.

I was able to come up with a running technique on this steep cemented road which is appropriate for my old knees. I just have to shorten my strides, bend my legs from the knees, come up with a faster leg turn-over, bend my upper body slightly forward, swing my arms with a faster tempo, relax my shoulders, maintain a midfoot strike on the ground and make sure my eyes are focused at least 3-5 meters on the ground in front of me. I can not suggest this technique to the other runners as this is what I had experimented for my style of running. I was able to manage the pain on my knees and preserve them by following on this technique.

Hopefully, I would be able to reach the halfway point of the TNF 100 Race course without any issues or problems. If I reach the halfway point with some time to spare, I know I would be able to finish the race.

Wish me luck!





Mt Kalbo

22 04 2014

“Kalbo” means Bald.

Three years ago on my first trek to the peak of Mt Natib, the highest mountain in the Bataan Natural Park, I noticed a mountain peak without any trees or vegetation on it as seen on the right side from the trail going to a place called “Binutas”. The “peak” is located on a nearby mountain ridge and it is very noticeable because of its bare appearance.

Rounded Peak Of Mt Kalbo

Rounded Peak Of Mt Kalbo

Due to curiosity, I asked the guide if the peak has a name or something that would identify it among the local people in the area. The guide said that the mountain popularly known in the area as “Mount Kalbo”! I laughed and asked from the guide if he is really serious, and he said, “Yes”. The mountain peak is really called “Mount Kalbo” among the locals living in the area and I thought that someday I would be able to peakbag the said mountain.

After two years, I was able to trace a trail from my Playground to the peak of Mt Natib. But the trail is very challenging that it took us some time to really re-trace the trail which is being used by the hunters in the area. I brought some of my running friends to join me in trying to connect the trail from where I stopped with my training partner up to the place called “Binutas”. Due to the lack of time, we decided to turn-around and returned to where we started. It was a good 30K trail blazing experience among friends.

Finally, after starting very early in the morning, my training partner, Danin and I were able to reach “Binutas” after coming from the North side trail approach to Mt Natib, which means that we came from the Subic/SBMA area. It was a 40K total of “out and back” course and we came to know that we only had to trek for about 5 kilometers from the point we turned around with my running friends. On our first successful attempt, we had to deal with tall grasses; vines, and plants with thorns on those rarely-used trail.

To my surprise, on the last 1.5 kilometers before reaching the place called “Binutas”, we could see the peak of Mt Kalbo which is situated on the right side of the trail. I think my training partner and I would pass the foot of the peak for about 5-6 times already on our regular training runs to “Binutas” and Mt Natib since we discovered that Mt Kalbo was within our reach.

Playground BRAVO 50K Trail Run Participants

Playground BRAVO 50K Trail Run Participants

@ "Binutas", Near Mt Natib During The Playground BRAVO Race

@ “Binutas”, Near Mt Natib During The Playground BRAVO Race

Two weeks ago, four (4) brave trail runners attempted to run the North Trail Course to Mt Natib in a trail race dubbed as “Playground BRAVO 50K Trail Run” which is actually a 51-Kilometer “out and back” course and only three (3) runners finished the course. Although they experienced the usual sharp blades of grasses, thorny vines and plants; and leaf-covered vines on the ground that traps ones feet, these runners were able to pass the tests of this trail with flying colors, not to mention the brutal elevation and the heat within the area.

In my desire to clean the trail from these grasses, vines, and thorny plants, I brought two of my men with their bolos and foods/drinks to once and for all clean the trail for easier running and trekking.

Cleaning Of The Trails

Cleaning Of The Trails

After one hour of cleaning the trail within the vicinity of the foot of Mt Kalbo, I finally decided to instruct my men that we have to “peakbag” it and trace whatever trail that can be seen towards its peak. From the trail where we were cleaning, everything was an assault towards the pointed part of the mountain.

More Cleaning In The Forest

More Cleaning In The Forest

We had to slowly put our foot one after the other as we go up the peak and hold whatever plant or growth as we pulled our bodies upward. It was a very slow and deliberate pace as we got higher in elevation. After about 350 meters of steep inclined approach, it leveled up and I started to see a lot of rocks surrounding the last assault to the peak. More rocks can be seen on the last 50 meters towards the peak of the mountain.

The Assault Trail To The Peak

The Assault Trail To The Peak

The Final Approach To The Peak

The Final Approach To The Peak

Finally, we were able to “peakbag” Mt Kalbo! It appears that the reason why there is no thick vegetation or trees on the peak is because of the presence of a lot of rocks. Only the cogon grasses thrive on the peak and it gives a semblance of its appearance as a bald mountain, most especially when the cogon grasses start to turn to brown and dried during summer.

Finally, A Pose At The Peak With Mt Natib In The Background

Finally, A Pose At The Peak With Mt Natib In The Background

More rocks can be seen on the flat portion of the peak but I have observed that the same vegetation that can be seen at the peak of Mt Natib is the same with that of Mt Kalbo. There are wild plants; cogon grasses; and orchids that can be seen at the peak.

There is a trace that an industrial drill had been used to bore a hole from the peak of the mountain and it has a cement marker that is almost disintegrating due to the elements. There is also a wooden pole which drilled to the ground that we could hardly pull from the ground. I guess, the wooden pole was placed beside the cement marker where one can place a flag or a cloth marker on top of the peak.

Cleaning The Peak & Exposing The Rocks

Cleaning The Peak & Exposing The Rocks

After some photo-ops, I instructed my men to clean the peak of the mountain and cut those tall grasses in order to expose the rocks on top of the peak. How I wish these rocks will not be vandalized by people who will be visiting this place.

Rocks At The Peak Of Mt Kalbo

Rocks At The Peak Of Mt Kalbo

My Men & Training Partners

My Men & Training Partners

Many thoughts and ideas came into my mind as I inspected every inch and foot on top of the peak of Mt Kalbo. I guess, Mt Kalbo Trail Run is coming soon as a challenge to trail runners.

After about 45 minutes at the peak, we decided to go back to the place where we started. It was a good 12 hours in the mountain and we finally reached our place at 9:45 PM.

My Garmin Watch registered an elevation of 930 meters at the peak. The whole 40K course also registered an Elevation Gain/Loss of 7,000 feet.

It was a good 40K “out and back” distance for the day! We officially “peakbagged” Mt Kalbo. And I am officially inviting bald trail runners/mountaineers to visit the place and I am also declaring it as the Official Mountain of the Baldies!

 





Result: 2nd Playground “Alpha” 50K Trail Run

21 04 2014

2nd Playground ALPHA 50K Trail Ultra Run (“Two Antenna” Loop Course 50K Trail Run)

Pastolan, Hermosa, Bataan

5:00 AM March 30, 2014

Number Of Starters: 10

RANK RACE BIB # NAME TIME (HRS)
1 15 Jon Borbon (Champion) 10:37:23
2 9 Ed Yonzon (1st Runner-Up) 10:42:35
3 20 Dhannie Tan (2nd Runner-Up) 11:18:23
4 26 Brian Tan Seng 11:20:59
5 24 Bong Anastacio 11:32:14
6 17 Luzel Tibo-oc (Champion, Female) 14:14:41
7 19 Mark Anthony Tibo-oc 14:14:43

Pictures: https://www.facebook.com/baldrunner/media_set?set=a.10202951564603769.1073741919.1043179758&type=3

Congratulations To All The Finishers!

2nd Playground Alpha 50K Trail Run Champion: Jon Borbon

2nd Playground Alpha 50K Trail Run Champion: Jon Borbon





Benson: An Aeta Friend

21 04 2014

In one of my trail running adventures, I was able to meet Benson, an Aeta residing in a Resettlement who is trying to earn a living by making and transporting charcoal in the mountains of Bataan. I was on my way to discover trails within my backyard when I met him. I asked him to orient myself in the different trails in the mountains and he was glad to help me.

I met Benson while he was on his way back to his residence in the Aeta Resettlement. He was carrying two sacks of charcoal which heights are taller than him. I can not believe how he was able to carry those sacks of charcoal with his thin and short body. What impressed me more was that he was using a rubber sandal walking/hiking on those mountain trails. His hiking pace was faster than me and my companion. He was really fast despite the fact that he was using a rubber sandal and carrying those two sacks of charcoal which are heavier than his weight.

Benson With My Men

Benson With My Men

While we were in our pits stops and water resupply points, I find time to talk to him and was able to gather a lot of information about him. He is married to another lady Aeta who just gave birth to their first child two months ago. He burned his bamboo hut which he constructed in the Aeta Resettlement Area and he gave me a vague statement/answer on the reason why he burned his hut. Since he does not have a place of his own, his child and himself are staying in the hut of his mother-in-law.

We asked some directions from him on how we can explore the mountains in the area and we asked the presence of mountain trails within the area. He is willing to be our “guide” if we intend to explore the nearby mountains and he asked that we should be in his place/resettlement area before 6:00 AM.

In our pit stops, we shared our bottled water/drinks and bite foods. Upon reaching the resettlement area, he invited us to the hut of his mother-in-law and offered us a beehive full of pure honey. Instead, we offered him and the rest of the children in the hut with our Cloud 9 Chocolates and Pan De Sal (local bread). After about, 10 minutes of rest and changing his shirt, he offered his service to guide us to the road that leads to the main Highway.

Picture With Benson Before We Parted Ways

Picture With Benson Before We Parted Ways

After hiking for 3 kilometers, he pointed a paved road that leads to a subdivision and gave some instructions and information about the description of the paved road. I brought out some cash in my hydration belt and I gave my money but before I can hand him my money, he asked not to be given such cash. He said that the money we have will be used for our fare for our tricycle and jeepney ride in going back to where we started. However, I asked and begged him to get the money for the milk of his baby and he gladly accepted it.

From there, we left him as he walked back to the resettlement area. And for us, we still have 14 kilometers more of dirt and paved roads before we reached our final destination.

One of these days, I and my training partner will be going back to get the service of Benson as our guide to the mountains in the area.

I hope we can explore and measure another 30 kilometers along the mountain trails so that I can have a 100-mile mountain trail route in my playground.





Sacks Of Charcoal

15 04 2014

It has been awhile when I had my last post in this blog. I was too busy in the mountains where I could hardly get a good connection to the Internet. Aside from my trail running training, I’ve been busy preparing and directing my road and trail races which are scheduled for the past months.

In my desire to look for trail routes within the vicinity of my “playground”, I had been exposed and had observed some of the local people in the area to be involved in charcoal making in the mountains. I almost meet a group of locals with their sleds being pulled by a carabao (water buffalo) stacked with sacks full of charcoal on a daily basis. Sometimes, I would pass by a place where two locals would be guarding a makeshift underground “oven” where they process or burn the woods cut in pieces and wait for these woods that would turn to charcoal.

I really don’t mind or give any interest or even stop to start a conversation with these people in the charcoal transport and processing “industry”. It is enough that I greet them while I am running or simply wave my hand just to show that I really don’t care about their trade. Anyway, they simply know me as a crazy trail runner in the mountains where they do their business.

Last week, in one of my adventure runs in the mountains trying to look for trails, I was surprised to see a band of charcoal “carriers” or persons who carry sacks of charcoal from the mountains to be brought to the populated community. Most of these carriers are our indigenous people called the “Aetas”. I met these band of Aetas resting in a shaded part of the mountain where there is a pipe with water freely flowing from it. Most of them were resting and some of them were taking their lunch as I can see some cooking pots near the sacks of charcoal.

The following pictures will show the number of sacks of charcoal resting on the rocks along the trail and you can imagine the number of trees being cut by these charcoal makers in the mountains in order to produce these sacks of charcoal:

Spring Water & Rest Area In The Mountains

Spring Water & Rest Area In The Mountains

Sacks Of Charcoal On Top Of Rocks

Sacks Of Charcoal On Top Of Rocks

Closer Look On The Sacks Of Charcoal

Closer Look On The Sacks Of Charcoal

I am not here to post these pictures and make any judgement or opinion on what I have seen and observed in the mountains. It is enough that you can see and conclude for yourself what is really happening on those hidden valleys and cliffs in the mountain ranges which you can see far away while you are in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus or driving your personal vehicle along the highway on your way to the province and from the city.

As usual, I had to greet the Aetas and went on to refresh myself by drinking the fresh and cold water freely flowing from the plastic pipe that was inserting in between two big rocks on the cliff. And then douse my head, face, nape and back with the flowing water.

After a few seconds, I waved my hands and told to the resting Aetas that I will be ahead of them in going to their resettlement. And I am glad they waved their hands and replied to my greetings.

My mountain trail running must go on and as I was nearing the trailhead near the Aeta Resettlement Area, I could see more mountains and more trails to explore in my next outing.

Trail running in the mountains reminds me how blessed I am and the rests of us living in the lowlands.








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