Bad Fall @ Mt Pinatubo Express

6:00 AM August 1, 2010: 50K Mt Pinatubo Run 

During the Awarding Ceremony of the 2010 BDM 102 last March of this year, July Oconer, 4th placer in the 2010 BDM 102 and a consistent participant & sponsor of the said race, requested me if I can organize a Trail Run to Mt Pinatubo. Jonel aka Bugo-bugo also approached me if I can conduct a race from the Barangay Hall of Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac to the Crater of Mt Pinatubo and back to the starting area. I told July and Jonel that the preparations and logistics will have to be well-planned and coordinated. Due to the National & Local Elections last May and the impending change of leadership in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it was impossible to prepare for an ultra race and implement it in a limited period available in a place where the runners could be only supported by 4 X 4 motor vehicles. In addition, an additional security arrangements with the military elements in the area must be coordinated after coordination is made with the local government of Capas, Tarlac. 

Instead of having a race, Jonel and July came up with a fun run and posted the event as “Mt Pinatubo Express” at Facebook which drew a positive response from a lot of interested runners. The 2010 BDM 102 finishers and “veterans”, PAU finishers, and other runners were invited to this event which happens to be conducted on the birthday of July. Preparations and coordination were made by Jonel and updates of the event were posted at Facebook. And there was no reason for us to postpone the event, except if there is a threat of an incoming typhoon or weather disturbance. 

Charlie, My Support Crew & Pacer

At 5:00 AM of August 1, 2010, a group of almost 50 runners, support crew, and guides assembled at the Barangay Hall of Sta. Juliana, Capas, Tarlac. After one hour of logistics preparation, briefing, attending to personal necessities, and a brief prayer for everybody, the fun run started at 6:00 AM.   

Runners would run in groups and have initially positioned our 4 X 4 vehicles at the front, middle, and rear. These vehicles served as our mobile Aid Stations where the individual support and supplies of each runner became a general support for everybody. We had our first “pit stop” at Km #6 to refill our hydration belts and systems. We waited for the arrival of the last runner and resumed our run once we account the presence of everybody. Our next stop would be at Km #10.3 and the same “ritual” was done. The group basically re-grouped in every 5 kilometers until we reached the “baseline” at Km #20. 

Km #2 of the Run On A Wet Lahar Ground

Food and water were abundant. Our support crew who were riding on those 4 X 4 motor vehicles did an excellent job of giving us food along the way and in our “pit stops”. Jonel of FrontRunner Magazine brought with him a professional photographer who took pictures of us during our runs (in action), “re-grouping”, and during our brief stay at the crater. Jonel informed us that the story and pictures of the event will be one of the main features of the magazine’s September-October issue.  

Junrox Poses With The Rocks

After one kilometer of slow run from the Starting Area, we immediately crossed the widest part of the river and we started running the 2nd kilometer with wet running shoes. As soon as our shoes would shed off the water that had been absorbed by the shoes, it was time again to cross another river and this occurrence was repeated. It is possible that we crossed a river for a hundred times during this run. Aside from the lahar/sand and the river crossing, running, walking and jumping on small/big/ boulders of rocks would be our next task before finally reaching the crater of Mt Pinatubo. 

Junrox, BR & The Rocks

 Jonel, Nickko, and I were the only “veterans” on this trek to Mt Pinatubo as we joined our first run and trek with the Pinoy Ultra Runners last November 2008. Although the guides walked and ran with us, we were confident that nobody will get lost along the way. Nickko, being the slowest runner among us, became our official “sweeper” and ably supported by one of our 4 X 4 vehicles. After almost two years since we first visited Mt Pinatubo, the landscape had tremendously changed where there are more rocks and big boulders along the river and inclined path towards the crater. We were surprised that the 7-km walk from the “baseline” up to the crater are now full with more rocks and that you need to have more time to select your footing on top of these rocks. 

Jerome's River Crossing In Action

 The whole group of runners & support crew reached the crater of Mt Pinatubo at 11:30 AM. We stayed at the crater for a limited period of one hour only. It was enough time for almost everybody to swim or soak their tired bodies in the sulphuric water of the Mt Pinatubo Lake. It was also a time to wash our socks and running shoes from the lahar that entered into them. I was surprised there is a lot of improvement done on the park overlooking the lake. The place is better for the tourists to see and a nice background for photo-ops. The stairs or pathwalk  that goes to the lake had been made wider and more-forgiving for older ones, like me! In November 2008 trek, I counted the number of steps to be 125 from the top of the park towards the ground of the lake. Now, they made it into 181 steps! 

Amazing Scenery!
Big & Small Rocks All Over The Place. Make Your Own Trail
Better & More Improved Park

 The view and scenery all around the Mt Pinatubo Park was amazing. The people managing this park did a good job to improve the facilities and structures of the place. This is a park that we should be proud of. I hope this park will be maintained and made a good example of eco-tourism in the local government level. 

Aside from cleaning our socks and running shoes from lahar/sand and small rocks, we had a simple picnic where we shared each other food brought by each runner. Our packs became lighter as we started to prepare back to where we started. Before we left the Park, we had some group pictures taken by our official photographer! 

At exactly 12:30 PM, we started leaving the Park/Crater of Mt Pinatubo. It was a slow descent for the first 2 kilometers as the trail is full of big rocks where it passes along the stream of water coming from the crater. Once we hit the wider portion of the trail, everybody started to run in groups again. 

Perfect Background
With Jerome & Charlie At The Crater Lake

 The run from the crater to the starting area is slightly downhill. My GF 305 recorded a data of 6,600+ feet accumulated ascent/descent and this is the reason why it took us more time to go to the crater than our time when running towards the finish line. The only thing or factor that slowed us in our way back was the heat of the sun during the early afternoon. It was good that we still had barely enough water supply for everybody. There was no danger of any casualty for heatstroke among the runners as I know that the runners had been “veterans” of BDM and PAU races. Plus the fact that we are surrounded with a flowing river where anybody could easily soak his body just in case a runner needs to cool off his body. Actually, I usually dip my running cap on the flowing water and have it wet and wear it on my head during the run towards the Finish area.  

And then an accident happened. Along Km #35, I tripped my right foot with rocks along the lahar ground while running at a faster pace and I fell forward on my belly. The fall is really a “big time” experience for me, my first in my running adventures! My right shin bone hit a rock as big as my palm and my skin was cut! I immediately inspected my cut by rubbing my hand on my shin in order to determine if I have a bone fracture. None! My cut was simply bleeding with blood. No cuts on my arms but only bruises. My long-sleeved shirt protected my arms from any wounds. And nothing happened to my face. I walked a few meters towards a stream with clean water flowing on it and cleaned my wound from the blood and sand. I was thinking that I should have worn my compression socks or calf support socks to protect my legs from being wounded by the rocks. I learned a lesson on this event—“bushwacking” is also applicable to rocks and there is a need to wear shin or calf support sock as a protection from wounds due to accidents or falls. 

Jerome Cartieller, a BDM 102 veteran and Rey Jimenez, my running partner along Kennon Road during my Adventure Run to Baguio City, came to me to assist and assess my wound. Jerome was an “angel” sent from heaven! He has a complete gear in his pack to include a First Aid Kit! Jerome & Rey cleaned my wound with Betadine and simply covered the wound with a gauze and transparent medical tape. After cleaning and treating the wound, my mind was thinking of getting a ride back to the finish area while I was walking and tried to observe if there was an unbearable pain while moving my legs. I decided to jog a little, felt that there is no pain and resumed my running. 

Wounded In Action

 I never quit in any runs or races even if I am injured. I never had any case of DNF in my running career and this particular running event will not be recorded as a DNF for me. So, I ran and brisk walked all the way to the Finish Area. I won over my negative thoughts, the heat of the afternoon sun, and my wound which was bleeding with more blood as I run. It never came into my mind that I am casualty of “Wounded In Action” (WIA) in my running career. But it is better than to be a recipient of the Purple Heart Medal (Wounded In Action Medal) in military operations against the enemies of the state/country. WIA in a military operation is far worse as you’ll never know if your body is still complete or not; or if you can still walk or run after your recovery. What an irony in life! 

 I reached the Finish Area with an elapsed time of 10:30+ hours to include the one-hour stay at the crater, those numerous “pit stops” & photo-ops along the route, and the time to treat my wound. After two weeks of finishing the Headlands 50-Mile Run, my body was prepared again for this run. I did not feel any soreness and pain on my legs due to the trail running except for the slight pain on my wound and bruises. I think my wound is “telling” me to rest and recover for the whole week this time!  

The North Face Rucky Chucky Trail Shoes Sucks!!!

 Before taking off my running shoes, I inspected The North Face Rucky Chucky Trail Shoes and it is wrecked! The logos on each of the shoe just fell down while I was still at the Km #18 and the soles began to separate from the shoe while I was walking towards the crater of Mt Pinatubo. The shoes’ model name is taken from the Rucky Chucky River of the Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run which is specifically located at Mile #78 of the trail route. The name itself symbolizes the WS 100 which is most prestigious 100-mile trail race in the United States and the shoes should carry the same prestige in terms of durability and endurance. I am not saying that the shoes was one of the reasons why I got tripped and fell on the ground during my run. But with the condition of the shoes after a 50K trail run to Mt Pinatubo, I think TNF Philippines should know about this as a feedback from their customer. 

Catered "Buffet" Party After The Run With The Host, July Oconer

After waiting for the last runner to arrive, the group was treated to a catered “buffet” dinner courtesy of the host and birthday celebrant for the day, July Oconer. (Note: It is becoming a tradition to serve a “lechon” during BDM “veterans” get-together party!) In this party, we celebrated also the birthday celebrants (Wilnar Iglesia & Rhodora Cartieller) for the week. It was really a nice carbo-protein-fat recovery meal for all the runners, support crew, and guides. 

During the dinner, I was able to talk and entertain Gerald who came all the way from Dalian, China and purposely joined us in this trail run. He stayed here in the country for 3 days. Gerald is a running partner of July in China and hails from New Mexico, USA. He is a competitive runner and had finished the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon held in White Sands, New Mexico every third Sunday of March. He has already made his intentions to bring his wife, relatives and friends  for them to experience the next edition of the BDM 102. 

With Gerald from New Mexico, USA

Lastly, I would like to convey my sincerest thanks to July being the generous host & main celebrant of the event; to Jonel for the “snappy” preparations, coordination, and documentation (pictorial); to all the support crew who served us with our food and hydration; and to our “guides” & drivers. And most of all to the Almighty God who gave us a “perfect” weather during the run, protected us from any harm, and for giving us the strength to finish the 50K trail run. 

See you in the 2nd PAU 65K Run in Ilocos Norte.