Tuesday, April 10

TNF100 2012 PH - Be Prepared for the Worst Possible Weather

"How worst can the weather get on the race day?" That's what lingers on my mind while I was drenched and shivering on my wet running clothes while facing at the fire place one hand holding a hot instant noodles. A generous family took as in while waiting for our emergency ride to arrive. Staying outside is just too cold for us to endure, the wind and the rain all together is not friendly to all 14 runners who tried to recon the second part of the TNF trail. "For me to survive on the race day if weather like this will happen, I just need to be prepared". That's all I can think of.

At the start of the second half of the 100K route
Of my three days stay in Baguio for the trail recon,  some trail run training, acclimatize to the cold weather and the higher altitude, it never failed to rain late afternoon every single day. And this isn't just a rain, it's a heavy down pour of rain. Last weekend  was for a recon of the second half of the TNF trail, I joined the group of 13 runners trying to find and be familiar of the trail. This part is the famous killer uphill trail  from Camp 1 to Andolor to Cabuyao. Just hearing from others who has done this part of the trail, is just really intimidating.

Some parts are open trail
We started our recon mid morning at Camp 1, crossing the hanging bridge from Kenon Road to Bridal Veil Falls on an elevation of less than 500 meters above sea level. The sun is up, it's hot, warm and humid. After  less than 30 minutes of uphill trek, I am already perspiring, trekking clothes now wet. But there are flatlands to recover and on areas that lead pack needs to scout for the next trail, majority of the group just look for a shaded area where we can rest from the heat of the sun. The routine has been like this until the group reach an established rough road that obviously has not been used by vehicle for along time. Though it's still an uphill road, some flat area makes each of us recover. After trekking for more than 2 hours covering just 5 kilometers , the group reach a house that has a sari sari store, the group decided to hydrate, cold soda and cold water is just so rewarding after that super hot trek. Most of us has been thinking of halo-halo, ice cream, mais con yelo, banana split and other cold sweets, which ofcourse we cannot have at this part of the community. The group decided to take an early lunch here but we also need to save some food with us on our next few hours of trek,  for after the next 18 kilometer from this point, for sure we will be hungry again and need to eat solid food. And true enough that happened.  After eating, refilling cold water, the group resume the trek, they said it's still a long way for us. It's still hot and sunny. We covered barely few meters of elevation gain from the time we strarted our trek.

Exposed Rough Road
After the rough road and road with cemented part on the sides, the group entered another rough road on the right. After few meters, it starts the single trail, uphill under the mossy dump forest. It's evident that it has been raining the past days, the ground, twigs, leaves  are wet. A slowly uphill ascend with minor flats to recover now leads to a major unending long ascend under the pine forest line.This part too starts the appearance of the blood sucking leeches.

freshen up, cold flowing water from a stream
The group make 2 rest stops to hydrate and eat. The final destination is to the radar tower of Cabuyao passing by the towers of Mt. Sto. Tomas, the highest elevation of the race, 2,259masl. We are still far, that part now covered with white clouds. After our ascend, it leads to a ridge, then a descend but this too starts our wet trek. It starts to drizzle until the rain pour. The group decided to take shelter at a house nearby the trail, thanks to the kindness the owner, he is generouse enough to offer his place. As soon as the rain stop, the group resume the trek, now all agreed to just take the shortest exit to the nearest community accessible by vehicle. But despite that, it's still a long trek for us. The rough dirt road leads to the summit of Mt. Sto Tomas, now a familiar playground for us. Our target which is the radar tower of Cabuyao is just few kilometers away, but the white clouds now becomes dark. Our goal is to reach the house near the tower for a ginataang halo halo or hot mami with hard boiled egg. This place is just getting colder as we trek further. That would be a sweet reward.

Radar at Cabuyao from Mt. Sto Tomas few minutes before the rain
But few kilometers before reaching the radar station of Cabuyao on a rough road where there is no community at all,  thunder starts roaring, the cold wind starts blowing, until we feel the rain starts pouring. We hope it will not be a heavy pour but as minutes pass by, drops becomes bigger, we are now like kids running under the rain. We put on our jackets, mine in particular is a gortex jacket, but because my legs are exposed too,  I am beginning to get wet. Drops of rain becomes bigger and colder that as it touches my tights to my skin, I can feel minor pain like pellet of toy guns. All of us soak from the rain, our goal now is to reach the house near the radar station, we just continue running like kids up to the store.

real cold......
As we reach the house, we settle for hot noodles and bread, no ginataan and hot mami. But nonetheless, the instant noodles is a big help. But as we stay longer on the side of the house, it gets colder that slowly each one of us are shivering. The chilling cold just penetrate to the bones, Jules needs to change what ever dry clothes some of us have in order  for her to regain warmth. While waiting for our emergency ride, the owner of the house is kind enough to open her house to us, put on the fire place and invite us inside to keep us warm. As much as we wanted to continue our trail run, on that situation, we just cannot. We decided to call it a day. It was a good recon after all, in a matter of 8 hours the group experienced more than what we asked for, heat training, uphill downhill training, leech bite and the surprise of the day, cold training. From the elevation of less than 500masl to the highest point of 2,259masl of Mt. Sto. Tomas, all of us managed to survive.

happy runners on the go
After that, my thoughts linger. Trying to anticipate the worst possible weather scenario for the 100k runners on the race day. With barely two weeks to go from now I just hope and pray that it will not rain on the race day. But what if it will, getting wet on the highest elevation part of the race, on the exposed most windy part of the trail is the very least that one could wish for. But what if it will rain on that part, on a late afternoon or early evening?

This is what I think of, this is just my own opinion after discussing the situation with some of my running friends at that time:

1. Maximize daylight, maximize heat. Move forward, move faster on the first 50 kilometer part of the race. But with extra care too. Keeping in mind that there is still second half of the race which is mostly uphill trail and down hill to finish line.  Take extra care of the knees.
2. Make sure to have gloves and bonnet at the mid point drop off station for second half of the race.
3. One set of complete dry clothes at the mid point drop off station for the second half of the race.
4. One pair of dry trail running shoes and dry socks at the mid point drop off station.
5. One thin trekking pants.
6. Two pcs. big black garbage bag or yellow disposable plastic rain coat easily accessible, if it will rain put it as the outer layer to the jacket to make sure that one will not be soaked to the rain.     
7. If it rains and it's near a community, get some shelter, wait til it stops or at least not a heavy down pour.

The second half of the trail is equally beautiful as that of the first half of the race route that I already see and made a recon. It's very scenic, beautiful view of the Cordillera mountain ranges, pine forest. The challenging terrain is unique and is a given on this area. But if nature will play its role and will show it's worst on the second half part on the race day, things  will become different. It will be more challenging.

As I said, I really hope and pray for the best weather, for a good race. I hope the weather pattern that Benguet is experiencing the past weeks now will change in the next 14 days. But if not, unless 100k runners will be psyched for the worst possible scenario to happen. That situation that I encounter last weekend made me feel excited and scared at the same time.

Pictures: From Andolor to Cabuyao

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