10:30 AM March 21, 2011/Laur, NE to Dingalan Bay, Aurora
Laur, Nueva Ecija is a small town where the National Highway does not pass on its Poblacion or center of the town. If you are travelling towards Gabaldon, NE, you could barely see the town as you need to turn left from a corner where the only Petron Gasoline Station is located. There are no common or popular commercial establishment or popular fastfood restaurants in the place. There was only one place where it serves cooked food and this was the place where I had my brunch with my team. The food was simple—sinigang na bangus, pork adobo, sauteed meat, and rice with fresh banana. The food serves its purpose as my source of energy for the day.
I was on a relaxed mood after I finished my brunch and took my time to reach Km Post #145 which is only less than one kilometer away from the Poblacion. I knew that this will be my last day of my adventure run and very confident that I will reach my destination without any “issues” or accidents along the road. I just have to maintain the things that I’ve done for the past days and I let my body on “automatic” mode once I start my run. It was at the Kilometer Post where I wear my ASICS Gel-LyteRacer and my Gray DryMax Running Socks. After wearing and checking the accessories I need to wear, I started my run with a simple prayer and sign of a cross, a ritual I’ve never missed to do every time I start my run.
I am not a stranger in this place as it was part of my Area of Operations (AOR) when I was a Brigade Commander of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army. I always visit Gabaldon and Dingalan because it was our Advanced Command Post (ACP) whenever we had combat and civil-military operations in the mountainous and forested areas of these two towns. But times have changed since then. The roads are now cemented and well-built with the proper drainage and structured concrete bridges. More houses had been built along the Highway. There are already elementary and high schools built in most of the more populated barangays. And there are newly constructed and developed garden and water resorts in the area.
I was assigned in these areas for 2 years and 4 months. What I like with Gabaldon are their Onions! Gabaldon is considered as the Onion Capital of the Country. They cultivate and produce the white and the red onions. There were times when the price of these onions would go down to P 5.00 per kilo and a bagful (20 kilos) would only cost P 100.00! I usually bring some of these onions (in bags of 20 kilos) to Manila and give them as a gift to my friends, peers, relatives, superiors, and subordinates. Well, after a few days, they complain to me that they smell like onions already! On the other hand, the more smart traders/businessmen from Visayas and Mindanao would buy these onions when the price is low and have them transported to their “refrigirated” warehouses so that the freshness of the onions will be maintained even after months of being stored. And then sell them when they supply is low. It’s a good business!
On my last day of my run, I opted to use my ever reliable Patagonia Capilene White Long-Sleeved Shirt. This is the same shirt that I used in last year’s Marin Headlands 50-Mile Train Run. It is not tight but it gives me a comfortable feeling when I run. As for the running shorts, I used a NIKE running shorts which I bought (at a discounted price) in a NIKE Store at the Caltex Gasoline Station along the NLEX. The running shorts is nice and comfortable that I did not have “issues” on my upper inner legs and crotches. I was already confident that I really did not need the Adidas Tech Fit Compression Short for this particular leg of my adventure run. I wanted to appear in my pictures as a traditional runner! The DryMax Trail Socks is thicker than the ordinary running socks and it fits well to my ASICS Gel-LyterRacer. I have no worries if my socks will be wet from the water that I pour on my neck and head, and perspiration from my body that goes down to my legs. I knew these socks will not give me any problems with blisters.
As soon as I started my run, the places that I passed and looked forward became familiar as I recall those times when I usually pass along this road going to Gabaldon and Dingalan. The scenery of the place is really amazing. This is the place where you could see clean and crystal clear flowing water on rivers. I’ve never seen such kind and condition of water on rivers that I passed in the provinces of Pangasinan and Tarlac. The mountains and hills are also amazing to behold. Although most of these mountains lack those thick forested areas, their size, formation and the different colors from their vegetation could give refreshing feeling to the eyes. How I wish these hills and mountains have trails where runners could walk and run. I hope to return to these places and talk to the locals and get more information about the trails on these mountains.
I have observed that the road is clean from Laur to Gabaldon. I did not see any trash or unnecessary wastes along the road. Even when I reached the Poblacion of Gabaldon, I did not see any trash along the road. But what I’ve observed was that there are parts of the mountains which are burned. Burning the grass on the mountains had been an annual practice of the people thereat. The burning of the grass is a way for the grass to re-grow and the new grass growth is a good food or feed for the cattle in the area.
I have to maintain my nutrition strategy during the run. I usually take a meal before my daily run as it gives me the necessary energy to last me for 1 1/2 to 2 hours and I don’t ingest any sports gel. I maintain my hydration strategy by drinking a sip of water evey two kilometers where my support have “leap frogged” ahead of me. This is repeated up to the time I reach 1 1/2 hours of running. After this, I drink one-half bottle of Sports Drinks and every 1 1/2 hours thereafter. If I feel hungry, I take those Nature Valley Sports Bar and/or Chips Ahoy Cookies. If there are fresh fruits, like banana or mangoes. I take them when I feel hungry.
As for my running & walking strategy, I dropped using the Galloway Method of following a run-walk ratio religiously. I simply followed my ritual of running along the descending and flat portions of the road and simply brisk walking on the ascending portions of the road. However, I tried my best to quicken my average pace during the run. The counting of strides was still religiously followed most especially during those times when the heat of the sun and the cement were very challenging. The counting kept my sanity during the run. Of course, there are times also that I pray when I feel that I was exhausted.
In one of the legs/days of this adventure run, I tried a run strategy where I have to run hard on the early hours and sustain whatever strength I have left in my body in the later hours of the day. To be specific, I have to run 8 kilometers for the first hour; 7 kilometers for the second hour; 6 kilometers for the 3rd hour; and then maintain 5 kilometers for the 4th and succeeding hours until I end the run for the day. So, if I am going to run for 8 hours for the day, I would be able to finish at least 46 kilometers for the day. Nice run strategy but it really puts pressure on me. If not for the swelling of my left quads and the pain that goes with it, it would have been doable.
Due to my predicament after the Camiling-La Paz Leg, I maintained an average pace of 5 kilometers per hour but it became slower when I reached the uphills of Fort Magsaysay-Laur-Gabaldon-Dingalan areas. Although I was able to recover on the last two legs of this run, I did not think of taking the risk of increasing my pace on a tempo run mode but maintaining the LSD mode would be the nice decision for this adventure run. The goal is to finish this adventure run where I can still stand up and walk on my own and drive the support vehicle back to Metro Manila.
For so many times, I’ve taken pictures of mountains that resemble the mountains in Marin Headlands in San Francisco, California in almost all the places that I passed through. I know for sure that that there are trails on these mountains and they could be used for trail running events in the future. I know for sure that once upon a time, these trails had been used by the insurgents and military patrols at the height of the government’s efforts to thwart the spread of insurgency in the country. Sometimes, I would think that trail running in some of the mountains in the country would drive away those insurgents to higher mountains and more forested areas. However, on the places that I passed through, these mountains are already cleared from the insurgents.
The challenge now is to find out the trails inside the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation Area. This would be the best place to conduct an ultra trail running event in the future. I’ve been thinking about this while I was running through the places at Fort Magsaysay the previous day. It is doable and runners would be excited to experience an ultra trail run on a regular basis within the year.
I was also thinking during my run to purposely travel from Manila up to Fort Magsaysay by taking the NLEX-SCETX-La Paz-Zaragoza-Santa Rosa-Fort Magsaysay Route to find out the travel time. Before the SCETX was constructed, the route to Fort Magsaysay would pass along the busy eastern towns of Bulacan and the southern towns of Nueva Ecija. Before, it takes 3 1/2 to 4 hours to reach Fort Magsaysay from Manila even if I take the shortcut route from Gapan, Nueva Ecija to the Southern Gate of Fort Magsaysay through Papaya, Nueva Ecija. I would say and suspect that Fort Magsaysay could be reached in 2 1/2 hours by taking the new route. I will try to prove if my suspicion is right in the coming days.
It was uneventful that I was able to reach the Poblacion of Gabaldon, NE. This town is the location of the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology. I had my pictures taken infront of Resort 8 where we stayed overnight before this day’s run. From that point, I had 5 more kilometers to the Poblacion of Gabaldon.
The road from Gabaldon to Dingalan has a distance of 12 kilometers. When I was still assigned in this place, the road was a dirt road with big boulders/stones protruding from the ground. Ordinary cars and vehicles would not be able to reach Dingalan because of the steep roads and slippery and muddy road. It was only those with 4-wheel drive transmission vehicles that could reach Dingalan from Gabaldon. But from what I was seeing during my run, the place had completely changed because of the first class highway where any kind of vehicle would be able to reach Dingalan
Dingalan is the southern most town of Aurora Province and you need to travel through Nueva Ecija in order to reach the capital of Aurora which is Baler. Dingalan Bay is being planned to be the eastern seaport of the country and this could be the reason why the government constructed the SCETX as it would connect it to Subic Bay Freeport. A high-speed highway from Dingalan Bay to Subic Bay Freeport would cut the travel time of goods/materials from the Pacific Ocean to South China Sea or vice-versa, instead of the transport ships coming from the Pacific Ocean to go all the way south to the tip of Bicol region and finally going northwest to Manila Bay.
Dingalan Bay had been the source of Yellow Fin and Blue Marlin Tunas. When I was assigned in this area, a kilo of these fresh fish cost only P 45-50.00. My officers would buy by bulk (minimum of 10 kilos) and had the meat of the fish packaged and frozen into sashimi cuts. Whenever we have visitors from our Higher Headquarters and from our Operating Units, they were surprised when we serve them with sashimi with Wasabe Paste and Kikkoman Soy Sauce. I hope that those fresh catch tunas are still cheap at present.
It was already dark when I reached the last kilometer post. After the usual photo-ops, I ran another 600 meters towards the Dingalan Beach. The Dingalan Beach within the edge of the Poblacion is full of black stones while the neighboring barangay farther south has a beach with black/dark sand. After a picture pose at the Dingalan Beach, I grabbed my Nathan Bottle that I carried throughout the Adventure Run on my Nathan Hydration Belt where the Salt Water from Bolinao Beach was placed and contained.
Finally, at 6:20 PM, I slowly poured the Salt Water from the South China Sea to the waves of the Pacific Ocen. Mission accomplished. I was able to finish this “West To East” Adventure Run.
We tried to look for a place to rest overnight along Dingalan Beach but because it was dark along the main road that goes to the Beach Resorts, I decided to go back to Gabaldon’s Stone 8 Resort for the night. However, as we left the Poblacion of Dingalan, we dropped by a restaurant/resort on top of a mountain which is 3 kilometers away and along the highway. The establishment is called Gina’s Place. The place don’t have any display of cooked food but we were advised to order the food we want. I ordered Sinigang Na Yellow Fin Tuna and Broiled Blue Marlin. It was worth the wait as the tunas cooked were fresh.
After our dinner, we were back to Stone 8 Resort. It is time to rest and recover.
Data/Information For the Day’s Run:
Weather: Hot but it got cooler in the later part in the afternoon and in higher elevation