Monday, April 30

TNF100 Baguio-Benguet Philippines 2012

I come at the starting line of  this race with so much excitement, finally the several months of  waiting has now come to an end, there will be no other day but this one.  But I am scared at the same time. Knowing the difficulty of the race course and knowing what I am putting myself into, I just hope my several months of physical training and preparation will be enough for me to survive this ordeal and finish the race within cut off time.

Familiar faces now slowly fill up the ground near the starting area,  the atmosphere is festive and fun, runners for 100K are slowly gathering at the starting line as the gun start is almost approaching. To ease my feeling of anxiety, I take pictures with friends, greet and wish other runners good luck, and most of all go the bathroom several times. I have my monthly woman thingy again, another challenge to deal with aside from the very challenging course of this race. The weather is not as cold as I expected it to be even at this wee hours of the day. My game plan for the race: take my steady pace, push a little harder on flats and minor ascend and descend slopes, take advantage of the daytime, be extra careful on the sketchy part so as not to injure myself, stick with other runners as the dark will come and most of all enjoy and have fun no matter how difficult things may be.

As soon as we are released to start the most awaited race, I just follow the runners in front of me where they are heading, especially on the first few kilometers on the road. As I am still warming up, I just do my slow steady pace, other runners run after me, and sometimes I over take other runners as well. Until we enter the familiar playground, the eco trail. This starts the unending trail mostly single track of this course. I just follow where the runner in front of me leads, trying to take the chance to overtake on those areas that I can, but it's just really very minimal especially that it is still  dark. I just enjoy the trail. I am closely running with my friends, sometimes am ahead of them, there are times I am at their back. As early as inside John Hay less than an hour after we are released, I am one of those who made a wrong turn. Good thing one marshal noticed us and give us direction to go down and be back to the right track. That is almost 300 meters of distance wasted. We go on running the single trail  after more than 30 minutes we pass by AS1 still dark and the table with drinks are not set up yet. Running at 8.6k still dark,  I wouldn't need any hydration yet.

As the light of the day slowly breaks the darkness of the surrounding few hours after we started,   I just continue with my run now outside John Hay. As early as here one can see that  this is going to be a hot sunny day.  I am just enjoying the view, the beautiful mountain ranges as far as my eyes can see, the cool breeze, the smell of the pine trees. The single track trail leads to a rough graveled road which leads to AS2, the 19th kilometer mark of this course. As early as this station, the marshals already told me that I rank 6th among the female contingents. Being lost on the first few kilometers inside John Hay, I lost track of my female friends Jules and Rash, I wish they were among the 5 who run ahead of me. My friends I am with on most part of the trail are already waiting for me at the station enjoying the cold water. I decided to just hydrate and continue on with my adventure. Even if I leave the station ahead of my friends they still catch up with me at some point. I am just not performing well on the road, so I decided not to waste my time. After one rest stop with them towards an uphill rough road, there and then I decided I should go on. I ask one of  them to help me pull out my pair of trekking stick, this has become my third and fourth leg  from then on until the end of the race. We run together on the road until we are lead on the trail again, under the shade of the pine forest at first a rolling flatland until it leads to an ascend. This marks the  start of the many challenging ascends of the course, our very first approach to the first major peak of this course, Mt. Kotkot, the very first steep ascend of the many ascends that we will make on this course. While my friends stop at the flatland after an ascend, I decided to just go on without taking any rest. Together with my effort of pushing myself on the uphill part is my conscious effort to hydrate and nourish myself too. Even on eating some power bars, I still continue with my trek and making a faster stride on downhill parts.

Finally the trail leads to a road that leads to AS3, the 30.3km mark of this race. It's 8:18 in the morning, I've been on the trail for 5 hours now only covering 30 kilometers.  I asked for a cold water, refill my hydration bladder while eating fresh banana, steam sweet potato and hydrating as well. I can hear other supporters offering sandwhich to other runners, I can't help but wish I hope they offer the same to me but anyway I just make use of the banana and sweet potato that is available at the station. Bringing extra banana and sweet potato as my reserve food I left without even resting my legs. As I continue on another group of supporters few steps near the station offered some food and a pack of assorted mix nuts and candies. I drop by to look what they have, I decided to grab the hard boiled egg,  deeped in salt,  I swallow the whole egg, I wish to carry the pack of mix trail food but I do not have space anymore, my two hands still holding the banana and sweet potato while I am still holding my trekking sticks. The ladies just laugh at me when I said I wish I have two more hands to carry more food with me. As I made a turn on the road, the scene looks familiar to me, this now is the place I started my recon few weeks ago, I am now at Sitio Batuang on my approach to Ampucao.

Thank yu BoyP for this picture.
I continue on, make a right turn to an uphill road that leads to an uphill trail. I feel so happy reaching this part of the trail for I always look forward reaching this far, I love this part of the course, the scenery, the mountain slope, the ridge. I know this will also start the brutal ascend to Ampucao Peak but I just deal it with so much joy. I am alone now, there are other male runners infront of me and behind me, I just continue running, now mid morning at this open slope of the trail the sun is also getting higher and brighter, it is getting hotter. My goal is to be out of this mountain ridge soon to the covered part of this course, to the forest area. It took me almost two hours on this part, the scenery is just really beautiful, I see some runners taking pictures  on the safe area, I did not bother to stop and take pictures. I just bring out my camera on the uphill approach along the ridge, at least have a souvenir of the place on actual race and continue on.

Entering the forest is so much fun for me, I just continue running like a child slowing at the descend and ascend part. I did not bother to use the rope on the two descend parts with rope, I just use my hands to balance on the ground while going down. And because the ground is loose,  the soil is powdery, my hands now is dusty which becomes sticky a my hands sweat as I continue on the trail. I was closely trekking with a Singaporean runner Chee Ming Tay. As I reach the second house with flowing water from the hose, I stop, wash my sticky hands and refresh by pouring cold water on my head. The marshal at this part happily informed me 15 more minutes to the next aid station. But ofcourse with legs starting to get sore after almost eight hours of run, that 15 minutes takes longer. The uphill trail is now exposed to the direct heat of the sun, been longing to reach the vegetable area where the next aid station is. Indeed I reach this part more than 30 minutes after, such a big relief.

Thank you Nix for this picture.
The aid station AS4 is exposed to the heat of the sun, I grab cold water, banana and sweet potato again. This marks the 42.1km of the race.  I see familiar faces, my mountaineer friends are part of the marshal and station support. Seeing familiar faces and hearing their words of encourangements while on the midst of the race is just very inspiring. I grab extra food and carry with me. This is going to be a 12.5 kilometer road run mostly  sharp descend on direct heat of the sun up to the next aid station. It's almost mid noon now. I just follow the road, making a faster stride on the flat and descend and a brisk walk at the uphill part of the road. Reaching the store at El Dorado Cooperative at Ligay is such a big relief after several kilometers from the last aid station, it's just really very hot. And the host of the house cook food for the runners. With out hesitation, I ask for food, rice and pinikpikan (chicken in soup). I pour water on my head again, while waiting for my order. Now almost 9 hours on the trail been sweating, I also wanted to change sanitary napkin, but that will take so much of my time. I have been thinking of changing at AS5. I eat my food standing, in as much as wanted to sit down, I just cannot, otherwise the chair will be all bloody red. Other runners are there too eating including Chee Ming Tay, Zean is at the other store drinking soda, I decided to take real solid food.

After having a sip of the hot soup from pinikpikan and several spoon of rice, I continue with my adventure on this part of the road. Zean followed, we walk together, he has an upset stomach which caused him to slow down. I just continue with my run walk run walk technique, running on those parts  that I can. It's really terribly hot  on this part of the course, hitting almost 40 degrees celcius. I just thought this will already be part of my heat training for whatever desert race that I might be lucky to join someday. 'How more hot will it be there?' I thought. Most of the guys that I am trekking with on this part take refuge on the shaded area and even rest at the bench along the road, I decided not to. I know how far this part of the trail is and I know how difficult the never ending descend is so I just continue on. I can feel the blistering heat of the sun on my entire body, I just hydrate and hydrate and hydrate.  I pray to God I wont suffer from heat stroke on this temperature. Other runners who are with me  keep on asking how far it will be, what signs will there be that we are almost there. I told them if we will hear vividly the sound of  vehicles passing by and the cemented road. But that did not happen very soon. Upon reaching the curve towards the sharpest descend of the paved road, I know we are already there. I am just so happy reaching AS5 despite the heat of the sun. This is the 54.6km mark of this race, the midway and a cut off of 14 hours or 5:00pm is imposed on this station. Those who will not reach on this part by that time will be disqualified to continue the race.

Thanks Rax Cha for this picture
It's 2:00pm. I am very glad and happy seeing familiar faces of friends that are part of the marshals on this station. I look for something cold to drink. Sadly the water available at this point is not cold, the cold water, banana and sweet potato is still a bridge away. I make use of whatever is there. I went to the store to buy the coldest drink, a soda and ice candy. God, it's just really very hot that I need something cold. In as much as I wanted to sit down, I just cannot, I need to change. Janice asked me what I need,   I just want to hydrate first, I feel like this is the very first business that I should do on this station. She gave me the news that Iker Karrera is on the lead but I also receive the bad news that my friend Jules DNF at AS4, that  news made me sad. I just wish the rest of my friends will be able to make at this station on time. After having enough cold hydration and been able to pour water on my head, as my drop off bag has been handed to me, I just go directly to the rest room, time to do the second most important thing: change shirt and change sanitary napkin. What  a relief.

Thank you Rax Cha for this picture
Janice, Jho, Aris and other marshals check on me if I am doing ok. I am doing good and fine. I appreciate a lot Janice's offer some real food while the other marshals make an effort of transporting some water and food from the other side of the river in order to give us some food.  More and more runners arrive, some of them are my friends and my running mates. I eat, hydrate and soon leave. It's still hot, the sun is still high but I got to keep moving otherwise I will not have the enthusiasm to continue on. My friend Zean was so weak that he decided not to continue on the race at this part. So many bad news coming I decided to leave and start my adventure again.

Thank you Rax Cha for this picture
The next part is going to be a brutal ascend to Andolor. As I continue on, some runners are resting at the river, while some followed me, Doc and Bert are there too. I decided to stick with them,  in few more hours from now I know it will already get dark. They become my trekking buddies from then on. After the minor ascend we are lead to a single trail that is a never ending steep ascend. It really took us a while to tackle this part until we reach the road. I know we are almost at the house that offers cold drinks. We decided to take a rest buy some cold refreshments and continue on, the next station AS6 is just few meters away. At this time we know it really is just few meters away. This marks the 64.7km distance of the race, I am now more than 14 hours on the trail. It is here that I just really need to use the rest room, nature calls. I might as well do it here rather than on the bushes at night.

And it is a big relief after that, now I have to add water on my hydration pack, get banana and sweet potato despite my not so fan of it anymore, I begin to wish for another kind of food on the next station. The Baguio runners catch up with us here as well. Before we leave, the marshals tell us that the cut off to the next station is 12:00MN. We all know that it is 1:00am but instructions has been sent from the basecamp that it has been changed, though we are confident that we will reach Mt. Sto Tomas ahead of the new cut off time. We left the station complaining why change the rules at the middle of the race. When you are already tired and social skills has been depleting due to fatigue, hearing such change is not a very good news. But despite that we continue on with our headlamps already out. It will get dark very soon.

Now we tackle the long road again, what we thought  to be just a short distance from how we remember it the last time we are here, at this time the stretch on the road is just really taking us long. It is now dark and all our head lamps are already on. We have been waiting for the right turn to the rough road that leads to the single ascend trail. When it's dark and legs are already tired, that did not happen soon as well. Few kilometers before the final turn is a sub-aid station of all lady marshals offering us water and bread before we tackle the start of a long never ending ascend on the road and on the trail. Finally we see the blinker signaling us to turn right. The group of Baguio runners are already way ahead of us. I am now with seven other runners and being the only female of the group I make sure I will be at the front part of the group. As it is already really dark and we are leading to a rough road each one of us now has to be conscious of the trail signs so that we not make a wrong turn. Doc take the lead while I follow him making sure that we see the signs to the right trail. After  the rough road ascend is now the first part of the 4 ascend segment of this stretch of the mountain slope. It was just here that I realized that this has 4 segments of ascend, I cannot remember it to  be like this on our recon day. We decided to stick together, Doc being the leader, I followed him to make sure  that we will see the trail sign for the right trail and Bert being the sweeper making sure that all of us are able to follow. This really is a long stretch of ascend and each  segment of ascend has a flatland that served as our rest area and there are sub-aid stations as well to make sure that runners can be guided to the next trail. Though when asked about how many more kilometers, they are not so well knowledgeable about it.

It's getting cold despite our being in motion, some  members of our pack decided to put on their jackets, I just put on my gloves to contain the heat of my body. As we finally reach the wall of boulders, I know we are almost there. The trail now leads to a rough road that finally leads to the summit of Mt. Sto. Tomas. It is me who has been to this part of the course, Doc just keep on asking me how long it will be. All I remember is just an uphill trek. At this time the bushes are just really tall, this part of the trail has not been cleaned and cleared. Each of us are just being mindful of the trail sign and I know we are on the right track, just follow the light of the tower. Doc trek ahead of the group, I now make the lead, just when we arrive at the 2 towers I thought this will be the aid station already but no it is not. We continue on, another sub aid station on the vegetable area greeted us, but still this is not the aid station. We continue on, until finally and finally we reach AS7, the 73.7km mark of this race. It's 11:00pm. As much as we wanted  to refill hydrate and eat, the marshals told  us we need to rush to the next station to reach there before the cut off time. We are already tired, exhausted, and hungry. We do not want to argue anymore, we left and target to reach the  next station on time. We have so much time at hand but because this is rough road again even if this is all the way a descend road, I just want to make my pace a fast and consistent one. The mountain slope to the radar is very visible despite the dark surroundings. We just target to reach that part on time. And we did, we are still way earlier than cut off time. AS8, the 76.6km mark of the race. There are more marshals here, and my wish of having more variety of food has been granted. An option of hot coffee or chocolate is available. Wow, drink on a cold  temperature. Perfect timing. And aside from banana and sweet potato, an option of rice and viand is available. I just sit down on the cemented road, keeping myself busy refilling my hydration pack while drinking hot chocolate and eating rice, the viand is pork so I opt to eat my left over fried chicken. After few minutes, Doc signal us to leave. Just before we left my batch mates Jepoy and Alen arrive. It's good to know that the two of them reach AS8 just before the cut off time.

The next part of the trail is the brutal sharp descend to Camp 6, the marshal told us that for a normal trek this will take 5 hours to the next aid station. We just hope it will  not take that long for us on this part. At this point of an elevation of more than 2,200 meters above sea level  we are going to do a sharp direct descend to an elevation of around 900 meters above sea level down to Camp 6 at Kenon road. Because I haven't been to this part of the trail I really do not have any idea how difficult this is going to be.  And just the same formation, Doc take the lead, I followed and the rest followed. Our trek started at  the right side of the radar, just before reaching the downhill slope another  sub aid station waited for us giving us instructions to be really extra careful on this part of the course, never to go near the 'caution' yellow ribbon for it's really dangerous, it is a raven. Passed 1:00am, it's really dark, we can only see the trail through the light of our head lamps, down below we can see lighted community. There are no much pines trees on this part but rather bushes, the  sharp descend is with loose gravel and soil, I can understand why, this has been the trail of the 50K distance earlier in and out. We just continue  with our descend very mindful of every trail sign ahead. But at another sub aid station, one runner ahead  of us for several minutes had one leg on blood told us he has been beaten by a snake. My goodness,  on this slope part of the mountain, it's dark, cold and we are very tired, that is the very list that we wish to hear. At one point Doc negotiated me to lead the  trail, of course I did not agree, I am as nervous as he is. We just continue on, now there only three of us trekking together. The rest of our trekking buddies are just really far from us. The descend just really take like forever. What made the situation worst  I feel so sleepy on this part. I know I need to fight for it, I cannot afford to be  left behind by my running buddies now and besides I do not have the luxury of time any more, and it is in this part of the trail that I  haven't recon before. I first  wash my face with water, it only work for several minutes. I decided to bring our my music, it helps but I can still feel my sleepiness. I cannot do the counting of the boy bawang and the spicy peanut, I have trekking poles on my both  hands. I decided to bring out my stay alert chewing gum.  I despise the taste  of this but I do not have any choice...there it  keeps me alive and awake again. Thanks to that.

It take us almost four hours to reach at AS9, the  84.2km mark of the race. Though it's still dark we know we have to keep our pace faster, after the brutal descend will be another brutal ascend. We still have 15 kilometers to the finish line. And because we are at a lower elevation now, we all know that this is going to be another brutal ascend too. But before that happened, we need to do the maze inside the community passing a walk way, a hanging bridge again and several houses, literally it's like a maze. And we wake up the community, dogs here and there has been barking and barking. Until we are lead a paved uphill trail until it goes to the forested area again, and it's all uphill. Doc is on a faster pace now, surprisingly Kuya Mimis followed us until he trek ahead of us. I stick with Bert. I cannot trek much faster on an uphill anymore. Been eating the food that I have but really I just force myself to take something. I have been on the trail 26 hours now.

Thanks Ati Pie for this picture.
It is day time again, we are now on the mountain slopes to PMA, from the trail we are now on the road but few meters after, we are lead back to the trail, now another ascend. After that many grueling ascend and descend just on our last 15 kilometers to the finish line we still have another ascend to do. Where is the love. As much as we wanted to rest, I just cannot do it anymore. I just want to finish it. Doc and Kuya Mimis is just way ahead of us already, I am now with Bert and Chito. Upon entering the slopes of PMA, I know the trail here for I have done this part before. But because the trail signs are on the reverse side, that made me confuse as well. I keep on asking Bert if we are on the right track. After sometime Chito just take his big strides I am now left with Bert.

Dad, I made it to the finish line.
Entering the road to Loakan is now AS10, the 89.9km mark. We are really almost there. We have to deal with the remaining 11 kilometer road now up to the finish line. I force myself to take another power gel even if my throat cannot swallow it anymore. Gado is ahead of us, Kuya Mimis just run his biggest stride,  Doc is nowhere to be seen. I am with Bert. A road upon crossing the runway is another up hill that leads to a downhill part, it is really long until we enter the side of John Hay. Finally we are almost there, I thought. But no, that did not happen soon. We have to do several turns on the trail inside the camp, I decided to take a faster stride, though I know we have enough time, I've been longing to see the finish line. Bert is just closely running with me at the back, besides I do not want  to take a big distance away from him for I do not want to get lost at this part. But what made me so confused was after the football field, as we enter John Hay again, we are lead to the trail of the 11K runners on their way back. I am not too sure if I made the right turn, all I meet are runners of another distance, I continue running but really uncertain, until I meet friends running this distance telling me that Doc is just few meters away. Thank God I made the right turn.

As I am almost at the water station I shouted where the next trail is, and it leads to an uphill trail again. After the ascend the trail leads to yellow trail, we have been to this trail early part of the race. No marshals to assure me if I did the right turn, I slowed down, waited for Bert, and he said there is no other trail either. Until finally we reach the slope at the back of the hotel where we enter earlier. Bert's child and wife is waiting for us, now I can say we are finally almost there. Upon reaching the side of the hotel I can now hear familiar voices cheering it's 300 meters more to go. I just take my biggest stride in order to reach the finish line. It's now hot and I am already hungry. I have been awake more than 30 hours already, and been in the trail more than 29 hours already. All I can think of are the faces of my friends waiting for me at the finish line. God, what an amazing feeling crossing the finish line. Indeed, it's not just the marshals are waiting for my crossing of the finish line but my dear friends and fellow runners too. TNF100 2012 Official Result
Finish 51st among the 55 finishers, the 6th  and the last female to cross the finish line. I did it in 29 hours 28 minutes and 25 seconds. My longest run so far and my toughest I can say. The trail was tough, I do not have much to compare for this is just my third 100K trail run but others said the same, that was the hardest yet among the TNF 100K series. It was brutal, we experienced the best the the trail can offer, the steepest of climbs and the sharpest of descends and the grueling heat of the sun that reached almost 40 degrees Celsius made it all challenging. I conquer the pain that I slowly feel in my legs, the chafe and rashes on my legs, on my back and in front with sheer determination and a fierce will. I congratulate all the top placers, all the finishers and most of all  I salute all the 165  100K runners who dared to even begin the race, I admire all the runners who brave themselves to join this race, hearing their stories and seeing their achievements also inspire me to do more. I also salute those who brave to run the 50K distance and other shorter distances as well.  I thank all the marshals who one way or the other help us go through the ordeal, I thank the organizer for a kick - ass trail, that made me push myself beyond my limits. I thank my TNF/ROX/Primer friends who help me go through this race, I thank my friends who patiently waited for me,  I thank my trekking/running buddies who stayed with me until the finish line and  most of all I thank God for giving me the physical strength, determination and the will power to go through that tough trail despite my condition.  What a great feeling conquering the trail of this race,  indeed, I really feel so much at home when I am on the trail and so close to nature no matter  how difficult the condition may be.   'til the next adventure.
Pictures:TNF100 2012 Baguio-Benguet Philippines Series 
Sports Unlimited Video Coverage: TNF100 Baguio Benguet 2012 
Pictures thru Sports Unlimited: TNF100 2012 as Captured by Sports Unlimited 

I'd like to quote what the organizer put at the back of the token for this year's TNF 100 race finishers: 

The barrel man will no longer remind you of an overrated Filipino souvenir. It is the indestructible force inside you. The kind who braves a taxing long trail and makes it to the finish line without falter.  Alongside some of the nation's finest runners, you are a validation of the resilience of our tough ancestors.

You have broken boundaries and are now part of the legendary The North Face 100, which happened last April 21-22, 2012 in Baguio-Benguet, Philippines. Since it's first run in 2008, it has become a runner's most anticipated challenge to conquer.

The North Face 100 ultra trail running is a series held in several countries: Thailand, Taiwan, China, Australia, Singapore, Japan and the Philippines. This year's Philippine leg is vying for 3 points in the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc qualifying system. This puts The North Face 100 Philippines among the elite trail running courses in the world.

On this race, I just focus on my speed,  with a goal of taking advantage of the daytime, I just  continue my pace. I bring with me my camera but I did not take so much picture of the beautiful scenery that I pass along the trail. I did not  rest on each station too long and did not even rest on those slopes that has rest areas.  Despite my being so sleepy I did not take a nap.  I feel like every single minute of my time is very precious that I just need to move forward. Together with my pace and rest management, I consciously hydrate, eat as much as I can and never wait to get hungry. Though at some point I do not want to eat anymore due to fatigue and physical stress I just force myself to swallow something for I know how important food is for me to finish. The banana and the sweet potato is such a big help in my nourishment on this race too. I slowly feel the sore on my legs, I already have one blister on the left foot, I can feel the chafe on my waist due to the garter of my tights and on the garter of my tank top and even on the sides of my boobs,  I feel like I need to change another sanitary napkin on the 80 kilometer mark, but I did not mind all of those uncomfortable feelings. With the finish line on my mind, I just continue despite all this.

1 comment:

  1. wonderful post, che! i honestly look up to your strength and tenacity in facing ultra races and i take notes on tips you share so that one day, i can be as strong as you. congratulations on finishing tnf100 2012! it truly is a beautiful monster! :)