@ AS #5/Bridal Veil Falls, Camp 1, Kennon Road
It took me 2 hours and 25 minutes to reach AS #5, a distance of 12 Kilometers from AS #4 in Barangay Alang. As soon as I reached the paved road of Kennon Road, I was approached by Race Marshals to get my Race Bib number and instructed me to drop by the Aid Station for drinks and food. As I passed by the Aid Station, I saw some of the runners who arrived earlier and those who passed me on the downhill route from Barangay Alang. They were eating, refilling their hydration systems, checking their Drop Bags, some were changing to drier apparel and shoes, and some had taken their bath/shower at the nearby public toilet/shower room beside the road.
I asked my support crew to provide me with ice cold-soaked towelette which I could put on my head and nape as I was affected with the intense heat of the sun. I could feel the fatigue on my body due to the heat. I wanted to bring down the heat of my body at a faster rate by drinking ice-cold water and by rubbing my legs and arms with the ice-cold soaked towelette. It took me some minutes to do this “ice cold towel” rubbing routine to my exposed body parts. As soon as I felt my body temperature had stabilized, I asked for some solid food. I was able to ingest the whole can of Century Tuna Paella, 4 pieces of Vienna Sausage, and One Cup of Hot Chicken Noodle. I was able to drink half liter of ice-cold RC Cola while ingesting these solid foods. My plan to change my shoes and running apparel did not push through. I decided to continue the run without changing any of my running kit. While eating, I soaked my running cap, Buff Bandana, and my Mountain Hardwear Mini-Bandana in my ice chest so that when I am ready to use them again, they would give me some cold feeling to my body.
AS #5 To AS #6 ( Camp 1 To Barangay Tabaan)
After 30 minutes of rest/recovery at AS #5, I resumed my race and had my Mandatory Equipment Check-Up by the Race Marshals before leaving the Checkpoint at AS #5. Even with a “buffer” time of 3 hours before the prescribed cut-off time in the Checkpoint/AS #5, I knew that the next part of the course will be the hardest part of the route with the peak of Mt Santo Tomas as the next target. Last year, I had only 30 minutes as a “buffer” time when I crossed the Hanging Bridge of the Bridal Veil Falls and after hiking 2-3 kilometers, I declared myself as DNF. Since I did a lot of recon hikes on this part of the course, I was confident that I can retrace my way and recall the trails/roads up to the peak of Mt Santo Tomas. I estimated to reach the peak in 6 1/2 hours.
For this year, once I crossed the Hanging Bridge of the Bridal Veil Falls with much time as a “buffer”, I knew I would be able to cross the Finish Line with an impressive time. As soon as I reached the first creek/stream of the route, I saw a lot of runners resting and some had submerged their bodies to the cold water to cool off their warm bodies. I just stopped to dip my cap and my bandana and acknowledged the greetings of the runners whom I passed by. I continued my climb leaving the other runners behind. However, at some points, I would be overtaken by younger and stronger runners. I let them pass as I stepped aside from the trail.
After climbing the first uphill/ascent of the route and reaching the wide Barangay Road that leads to Andolor, I met two old couple who were watching me and the other runners. After greeting them in the local dialect, the old lady made some hand signs and verbal response to me. I immediately understood the message that she wanted me to do. She was telling me in the local dialect and hand signal that I need to close my mouth while exerting more effort in scaling those uphill climbs, thus, making me effortless and stronger in climbing. I said, Wow! I immediately recalled what I read in Scott Jurek’s book! According to a Chinese saying as stated in the book, “the nose is for breathing while the mouth is for eating”!
From this point, the advise of the old lady stayed in my mind and strictly observed throughout the race! I would strictly breath through my nose and always conscious that my mouth was always clipped! I tried to jog on the downhill parts of the route but it was temporary as I would face one uphill climb to another one. I had to power walk these climbs with the proper form and technique. Through the blogs of elite ultra trail runners, I was able to apply in my training some of their techniques in power hikes on uphill climbs. The first one is to use your hamstrings and gluteus (buttock) muscles in power climbs instead of the knees and quadriceps muscles. I have to bend my body from the waist as I push my body forward and make sure to land my foot on a flatter strike on the ground. By doing this, the hamstrings and gluteus muscles are forced to go in action on power hikes in uphill climbs. The second technique is to be able to constantly count your steps while power hiking or running. I would count from 1 up to 90 counts as my left foot strikes the ground and when I reach 90, I start again the cycle with 1 and so on. By counting your steps, you will be conscious on your pace and running form. Third technique is to find out one of your favorite ultra trail elite’s personal video on You Tube. Watch his video and try to recall/remember this video while you are in the race. This technique will inspire you to mimic his/her running form and the cadence of his feet even if you have short strides. Try these techniques and I am sure you will enjoy more on mountain trail running! Through these techniques, you don’t see me using my hands to push my knees in steep uphill climbs or had seen me using any trekking poles! But remember to always close your mouth and maximize the use of your nose in breathing! You will be surprised the heavenly feeling of breathing the purest air on earth!
All of a sudden I reached AS #6 which is situated at the Barangay Hall of Tabaan. I saw a lot of the faster runners resting and eating in the said place. Some of the runners suggested me to pick-up some foods and drinks and try to even up with the registration fee that we had paid to join this race. I stopped to pick some ripe bananas and chocolate drinks and I left the AS immediately.
AS #6 To AS #7 (Barangay Hall of Tabaan To Mt Santo Tomas)
After a few kilometers from the Barangay Hall, a group of runners passed me while I was power hiking. I was amazed how these runners would walk with such speed. I was able to briefly talk to George Javier, a mountaineer and ultra mountain runner based in Los Banos, Laguna, and a lady runner Del Guidaben who is also a fast hiker/ultra trail runner! At an intersection with a Waiting Shed, I decided to have a brief rest to eat what I’ve taken from the previous Aid Station. While eating, I would be greeted by those runners who stopped at the previous Aid Station as they passed my resting place. After 5 minutes, I was back on the road and continue with the race. I would never see the backs/shadows of George, Del, and the rest of the runners who passed me at the Waiting Shed.
More uphill climbs with more uphill hiking until I reached the Church of Andolor where Race Marshals and Medical Aid Personnel were stationed. The marshals advised me and the runners who were behind me that we can have a refill of our water bottles and we can also get some ice cubes from their supply. They warned us that the next 9 kilometers will be the steepest uphill/ascent of the course without any Race Marshal. I knew that the next part of the course will be the hardest to tackle as I need to rest/stop in every 20 steps on the steep inclines. The cycle had to be repeated until it became darker in the forest. It was still 6:30 PM but due to the thick foliage and cloudy sky/impending thunderstorm to come, the trail was already dark! It was time to bring out my Black Diamond Polar Headlight. In a few minutes, it started to drizzle and I immediately unpacked my light UNIQLO Windbreaker Jacket which I used in Mt Pulag during the H1 100-Mile Run and zippered it to cover my upper body. At this point, I still have 5 Kilometers more to go before I could reach the next Aid Station.
At some point after I wrapped myself with my Jacket, it began to rain lightly but as I go higher to the peak, I have observed that the rain became stronger. The trail was already flooded with water due to the rains and I had no other choice but to let my shoes and socks to be wet. The decision not to change to another shoes was favorable to me as I knew that my shoes would be drained easily from the absorbed water because the uppers are very porous with the materials used. Due to the strong rains, I found out that the water had seeped through my jacket. I started to feel some coldness in my body and my fingers had started to become numb. I remember what my Coach had advised me if ever I would be exposed to colder temperature during a trail race—keep on moving faster through hiking and/or moving or swinging the upper arms AND feed the body with more FOOD for the body to ingest. More food means more energy, and more energy means warmer body. I took in one GU Gel and ate a lot of those small potatoes (as big as those quail eggs) which I had it boiled with salted water before it was packed and followed by eating slices of Korean Pear. It was part of my food resupply at AS #5 from my support crew. It was still raining hard when I reached the place which I call “The Cable Drop” Point. Race Marshals were positioned on this point with their Camping Tent. From this point, I have to follow a steep descending zigzag trail until it would flatten for awhile and then followed with another uphill climb before an intersection. Another Race Marshals with tent were positioned in this place and I was told to turn left, meaning, go for another uphill climb again.
Due to steepness of the climb, my movement slowed down but my body was still warm. To anticipate the lowering of my energy due to my slow movement, I brought out my thin plastic poncho from my pack and had to wear it. It was still raining but I am confident that my warm body will not go down to a colder temperature with the poncho that I was using. Finally, I reached AS #7 near the peak of Mt Santo Tomas. One of the Race Marshals approached me and handed me a thin red plastic bracelet. I saw some of the runners at the tent eating some food and being attended to by the medical aide. When I saw that there are bottles of Mountain Dew, I got one plastic bottle of Mountain Dew and drank 1/4 of it. I was told that the distance to the next Aid Station is 3 Kilometers—1.5 kilometers as rough road and the other half as cemented road.
I reached this point at 10:15 PM and it took me almost 8 1/2 hours to climb Mt Santo Tomas! If not for the rains and colder temperature, I could have reached the peak with a faster time. At least, I was still enjoying a “buffer” time of 2 1/2 hours, reducing my previous “buffer” time at AS #5 by one hour.
AS #7 To AS #8 (Mt Santo Tomas To Mt Cabuyao)
It was all downhill from AS #7 but the road was rough with rocks although I can have a choice of where there are no protruding rocks along the wide road. I kept on power hiking on those downhill portions. I brought out my packed boiled corn in a cob for more more energy even if the rains had stopped already. While hiking, I had to eat the corn and ingesting them with the bottle of Mountain Dew. I was full of energy once I stepped on the concrete part of the road leading to Mt Cabuyao after I finished eating the corn. I would try to jog on the downhill portions and power hike on the uphill until I would see a completely submerged part of the road with water. I would go to the edge of the road and try not to dampen my shoes again. After slight rolling terrain along the paved road, I could see already the lights of tents near Cabuyao Peak. Once I reached the Aid Station, I was met by a lady Race Marshal who is a foreigner and she noted my Race Number. She advised me and the other runners reaching the place to get and eat some rice porridge. Instead of stopping by the Aid Station, I continued my walk to the trail that leads to the next Checkpoint/Aid Station.
I reached this point at 11:15 PM and had a “buffer” time of 2:15 hours before the cut-off time of 1:00 AM for this Aid Station/Checkpoint.
But there was some itchy feeling on my upper left leg and buttocks that I tried to scratch with my fingers. Lo and behold, I was being attacked by leeches. I believe that the leeches attacked my left leg on my way down from the peak of Mt Santo Tomas. I removed the leech from my left side buttocks, then another one on my upper left leg and then two leeches were trying to suck some blood from my left knee as they tried to cling to the upper edge of my calf sleeve. Four leeches attacked my left leg! After removing the leeches from my leg, I just continued my walk not minding if the blood was flowing out from my wounds.
AS #8 To AS #9 (Mt Cabuyao To Camp 6)
This is the steepest downhill part of the race course which consists of very narrow trail where one side is a steep ravine. In my recon runs in this part of the trail during the day, it was a fast one running and hiking along this course but with a muddy and slippery trail brought about by the rains on the early evening and trekking this part on a nighttime, it’s a different story. No one would dare to jump or run on those very technical and narrow trail of the route. One mistake or slip along this trail would result to flying to the deepest ravine of the mountain. I was very deliberate on my footing and every step on the steep declines which my movement very slow. I started to get a warm feeling to my body and I took some time to remove my thin plastic poncho and brought it back to my backpack. I could still feel that my windbreaker jacket is still damp and wet but my body was warm due to continues body movements.
As I slowly hiked down this trail, I immediately felt that my stomach was having some trouble and I could feel that I need to go to the bathroom. But I could still manage the situation as I continued my hike. As I approached a vegetable garden of cauliflower, I slipped on a muddy part of the trail and my buttocks “kissed” the ground. I tried to use my left arm to prevent my body from hitting the ground but it was not enough to counter the momentum of my body and I had to roll-over and landed on the vegetable garden. I immediately stood up and there was a pain on my left wrist. I thought my left wrist was broken! I slowly rotated my palm and tried to stretch/bend my wrist repeatedly. I was glad that there was no wound on my wrist and by massaging my wrist while walking, the pain just simply disappeared. I could see some blood flowing from my left knee but there was no pain on it and I concluded that the blood was coming from the bites of the leeches. I was glad that my slip was not done on those narrow trail where one side is a deep ravine!
After I’ve recovered from the slip, other runners would pass me along the trail and I would gladly step aside from the trail when I notice that there are sounds of steps behind me. I know that these runners would give notice or inform whoever were the runners resting on the next Aid Station that I was already near the Aid Station. Such information from these faster runners would also be relayed or monitored by my support crew waiting for me. More or less, my support crew would know that I am fine and still active/moving along the trail.
I continued my power hike but I’ve noticed that headlight’s illumination was becoming weaker. I had to move at a faster pace to reach the Aid Station where my support crew was waiting and where my stock of new batteries are located. As I moved faster down the trail, I forgot to take some GU Gel and my body became weaker, too. I had to stop, took a sit on a strip of lumber on the side of the trail and ate one piece of Hopia and drank a little of Mountain Dew. I felt nauseated when I swallowed the Hopia but I did not panic. I had to take a deep breath and observed my feelings. When the nausea feeling disappeared, I took one GU Gel and one Imodium capsule for my stomach pain before I continued with my hike. Slowly but surely, the sound of the river became louder and the sounds of the vehicles passing along Camp 6 in Kennon Road were becoming louder and nearer!
I reached Camp 6 at 1:30 AM and asked for my stash of running kit placed inside a “tupperware” box from my support crew. I immediately changed the batteries of my Headlight. I also requested for a hot noodles and coke. While eating, I tried to clean the leeches’ bites with wet wipes and declined suggestions from the Race Marshals that the bites should be treated by their Medical Aide. I also asked for my packed foods (sliced Korean Pear + boiled small potatoes) and have them inserted inside my backpack. As I ate and rested, more runners would arrive at the Aid Station. After about 15-20 minutes of stay in the Aid Station, I was ready for the last steep uphill climb of the race route.
To Be Continued…