Wednesday, June 6

Wild Merrell Adventure Run 2012

So what's my story at this time? 

I myself asked the same question  after I decided to finally join this race a day before the actual event. I've been set to do another ultra trail run that weekend, but I opted to listen to my veteran ultra runner friends who are kind enough to keep  reminding me not to abuse my body.

One big story, I started the race late. I hate it, but I cannot do anything about it. Availing the organizer's shuttle service, again and again it leave the meeting place 30 minutes late from the agreed time. The group arrive at the race area 10 minutes before the gun start, a gloomy weather, despite the time, it's still dark and wet though the rain stop but it's foggy. After almost two hours on the freezing cold bus ride I just need to wait the long queue  of line in the ladies portalet, I  just need to pee before the run. I take my sweet time thinking  there will be an adjustment on the gun start. 

I know that is not a valid excuse, late is late. True enough, as I notice two of my friends running the same category as I am  rushing to the starting line, I realized, oh no, that could be the start of the longest distance of this race, the 21K which I am joining. The sound system of the event is not that audible from the baggage counter. I rush to the human traffic of runners, only to realize the 21K  category has long been released as well as the 10K runners, the 5K distance has been called for  the race will start soon. Shoot, I am 18 minutes late from the supposedly gun start of my category. 

Photo courtesy of Joseph Patrich Bonaobra
Without taking a breath, I just rush and run to my fastest stride. But of course I know I cannot run that fast too, there are just too many runners ahead of me, besides the start is an uphill uneven packed clay road with rocks slippery from the several days of raining due to a typhoon. Oh well, late that long is just too impossible for me to catch up with the 21K runners. But such situation did not bring me down. I am not running against anybody else but rather against my own time on the past race of the same category. I wanted to test  after my several weeks of running if there could be some improvement on my time, something that I've been working on.

I have run this trail several times before, it may be rugged but I believe the trail is still friendly enough especially to beginner trail runners.  It has a little of everything  a newbie to trail running can ask for, majority of the trail  is a rolling of compact clay single track with flats that leads to some rough roads, with minor up hill and  downhill, crossing a stream and river, traversing a hill to the next, some parts rocky and with bushes even taller than me with a view of the Sierra Madre mountain range. On a normal sunny day, this place is just a haven for a trail running enthusiast like me, nice trail to run for a short yet quality one with just few rides away from the city.  But since it has been raining the past few days,  I know very well that the kind of trail on this area will be very slippery and muddy.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Patrich Bonaobra
True enough, right after the starting line, the road is already muddy. As it leads to a single trail, all the more what used to be a compact clay trail is now slippery and muddy like hell. As I struggle to move forward on the kind of trail that greeted each  of us, the traffic of runners on the single track trail is just impossible to get a faster pace. With one goal in mind, move as  fast as I can despite the muddy slippery trail, most of the time I tried to negotiate small opportunity of moving forward on the  a single track trail by making a side step on the bushes. I just have to make it sure that I will land on a safe ground and can move forward. Overtaking the runner in front of me is  one of a challenge as well, but most of the time I am successful  doing it. I was  able to catch up with other runners until I catch up with some of my running friends who started way ahead of me running the same 21K distance.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Patrich Bonaobra
It was never easy running on a trail as slippery and muddy as that, moving forward  is a challenge when my shoes gets so heavy from the mud  that sticks to the traction of  my shoes, but everyone just gets down and gets dirty just like me, no one is spared. I managed to maintain my balance despite the slippery trail but that did not spare me from tasting the mud and even getting into my eyes. When even my hands are full of mud, it's just amazing how I get creative on cleaning my eyes and mouth from the dirt. Adding to that are the many obstacles  each runner has to encounter, the mudslides, mud tunnel, mud pit, cliff, river crossing. Being conscious on my time, safety is still my top most priority. I just have to be careful not to twist my knees and ankle from the slippery trail. Running injured free has always been my goal and I am thankful I run safe as well as all the participants of this race.

Photo courtesy of Ella MaraMelanie Dator Perz
On the parts that has ropes to assist runners in going up or going down a slippery part, I seldom use it. Aside from the fact that I have to wait for others  ahead of me on the line, I feel more secured getting my own footings on the ground while grabbing a branch or a bunch of grass. And it works for me. On the river I just use my instinct, making sure I am on the shallow part and stepping on a stable rock. I am glad I pass that section twice safe.

Photo courtesy of Merrell Adventure Sports
Having to do all the obstacles twice for the race is a two loop course, I managed to cross the finish line with an official time of 4 hours and 8 minutes. Less the time that I started late, I would like to believe that my time improves from the last time I run the same distance on trail. I always believe, in each race that I join, it's not just going to be a race but an experience I will always cherish. This race is one of those fun filled experience for me. My being late nor the  heavy rains and the zero visibility fog nor the wet slippery and muddy trail were never a reason to dampen my excitement and spirit to just enjoy the trail and have so much fun. It was as memorable as my other races and I am sure it was for the others too. I can say this is the race I am on my dirtiest appearance due to the mud but I had so much fun every single minute of it.  Most of all, I am glad to see my friends whom I haven't been running with for quite sometime now.

I congratulate the organizer for a successful event, a well organized one.  In the worst weather condition, you have shown the best that the trails on the slopes of Timberland can offer. What used to be a simple rolling trail becomes an exciting and challenging one. You bring out the best characteristics of the trail and bring out the best of the runners to endure the challenge. I would like to commend the marshals, the water stations are ready with hydration and the critical areas have marshals and energetic medics readily available to assist runners in need of help.  On junctions and slippery parts there are marshals looking for the safety of all the runners. Thank you for putting the safety  of the runners the top most priority of the race. Thumbie O. Remigio did a great job too, he has come up with a great course complete with obstacles that each runner can ask for. Adding the weather condition, it makes the race more fun and exciting.

What worked:
Proper Gear, Body Coordination and Just Having Fun  
I am glad I decided to bring my hydration pack. Despite the short distance of the race, it saves so much time not to line up on the hydration stations to get water. I only grab water when I need to clean my hands from the dirt so that I can clear the soil in my eyes and mouth too. The hydration pack also allows me to carry small amount of trail food that sustain me until the end of the race.

My shoes never fails me. Despite the mileage that my shoes has  been going  through since I have it last February, I still believe it was a great help I manage to get a proper and good balance on the muddy slippery trail. It's a big thing to use the right and proper gear on this kind of challenging trail to lessen the risk of injury.

Adding to that, I think gaining confidence on running the trail, one has just to learn it by experience. No enough lecture can replace the actual exposure on the outdoors. And races like this is a good start.

On this race, I have my own share of fall, I get wet, dirty and muddy, and it's all ok, that's part of trail running.  What is important is to be extra careful not to get major injury on the trail. Sometimes unavoidable but I am thankful I haven't experienced such.And just no matter what the situation is, just enjoy and have fun.

Few observations and suggestions:
The event still use paper cups and bottles. But one thing good about this event, there are some garbage bags at each station where runners can dispose used cups and bottles. Before the event ends and even while there are still runners on the trail, there are already marshals who started picking up the trash scattered on the trail.

On the Shuttle Service
Photo courtesy of Beth Vazques
On races held far from the busy streets of the city that is  less accessible to public vehicles on the ungodly hours of the morning, I really appreciate organizers taking the hassle of arranging transportation to participants who do not have a private vehicle. Not all organizers do the same. On this race in particular, I am glad such transportation is available for a minimal cost. But it could have been better if  buses left  the meeting place on time, giving respect to those who manage to arrive before the agreed time. Waiting for an additional 10 minutes to wait for the late comers is acceptable but I think 30 minutes after is just too long.  As the buses arrive at the race area almost the start of the longest distance of the race, runners are cramming  on doing the  final preparation prior to the race. And on going back, it could have been nice if some shuttle should have waited a bit longer for runners who finished late on the race. The last bus left even before the last runner crossed the finish line. I think this is more of giving consideration to those who avail a round trip transportation who happens to finish late and do not have any other transportation that one can get going back to the city.

On Event's Sound System 
I just do not know if it's because of the  way the venue of the race area is being set up, I just find the sound system not so audible on the wide venue of the place. It could have been great if such announcements will be heard from one corner of the venue away from the stage, up to the area near the portalets.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Patrich Bonaobra
On Trail Etiquette 
Having a race briefing is ideal, the very least probably is reminder.

It could have been nice if there will be a reminder from the race organizer on trail etiquette. I really do not know how this could be done on this event, I've been to several trail run events in the past and this is possible. It has become part of the race briefing instructions. But if there is no race briefing prior to the race, then most likely part of the race announcement is a reminder what could be a proper etiquette on trail running especially that on overtaking and leave no trace policy. Or probably prior to the gun start hoping that most participants will listen to the announcements.

On Trail Etiquette: Overtaking
On a race, it's a given fact that there will always be a runner faster than you are and a runner slower than you will be. Running on a road is pretty okey, for it is wide, runner at the back can always find a way to move forward. But on a single track trail, it will be nice to give way to faster runner when one noticed that one is already at the back catching up a faster pace than you are. Stepping on the side of the trail is not so much of an effort.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Patrich Bonaobra
On Trail Etiquette: Leave No Trace Policy
On that race day when it has been raining for several days, the rain softens the trail. Given the number of runners, it is pretty sure that the compact trail will have it's own share of damage. This is something that the organizer cannot avoid. I just hope the trail will heal in itself before the next race such as this will happen again. What calls my attention was confirming that few runners despite the race still takes the time to pick plants and flowers.

Photo courtesy of Joseph Patrich Bonaobra
I noticed that there are good flowering plants along the trail, I heard one comment on the finish line why others pick plants and flowers. I did not notice it. But when I saw this picture confirming such, it saddens me. What we have done to the trail is more than enough.

I would like to think  such case is isolated but I hope the organizer can make some reminders to the runners on sticking to the creed, 'take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time.' Leave the trail as much as possible without any trace, bring with you what you carry like trash and do not carry what ever is there.

Again, this is just my observation and my opinion.

A good write up on running, just want to make part of this blog as my reference: Is There One Best Running Surface?  

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