Wednesday, November 27

CM50: Clark- Mayamit Falls 50-Mile Trail Race 2013

Certified Bad Ass Ultrarunner? Do I deserve to be called such?  I woke up this morning with a smile on my face despite my sore body. I did it. Yes, I did it.  I know I came to the race unprepared, I haven't been logging a descent mileage the past month, always been thinking of  doing such but really I never find the motivation to do it. I joined races on weekends but I just drag myself to finish the race. I know I have to work on my speed but up until now I can't get my acts together and start doing it.

CM50, on its 3rd year now. I know the race event , I run parts of the race course, had trek and run parts of the lahar area several times, and Sapang Uwak to Mayamit Falls is my training ground in preparation to my several races in the past. But I never joined this event nor run the entire race course. I heard so much stories about CM50 from my ultra runner friends who did race in the past, it is known for it's brutal course. And this year I thought I will have this race pass again on my lap. But I was meant to be here, to be part of this race. One slot opened with a longest distance, arrangements with the Race Director were made, looks like all were set including my ride but not myself, I am not too sure if I am really ready for another race. Coming from a 55km race the previous weekend, all I hope for is to have a kind legs and a cooperative stomach.

Picture courtesy of Rashel Pena
Facts about the race:
CM50 is the finale of the race series with CM42 as a qualifying race. This is an out-and-back course on footpath connecting Clark to the scenic Miyamit Falls in Porac, Pampanga. It is an old trail used primarily by Aetas. The route will take runners from Tennis Court area of Clark Parade Ground (Start/Finish line) at Clark Freeport Zone (formerly Clark Air Base), Gate 14, Sacobia River, Puning Spa, Sitio Target, up the dirt road covering the sugar cane plantation, Sitio Ebus (Aeta community), down to the expansive Pasig-Potrero River (river crossing), parallel dirt road along SCTEX, Crow Creek (Sapang Uwak), passing through the Aeta community, then up to Miyamit Falls and the peak (about 3kms to caldera of Mt. Pinatubo) and back to Clark.

NOTE: This is a physically demanding race. Runners are strongly advised to train properly for it.

Course condition: Gravel road, fire trails, dirt road, river and lahar crossings, single tracks and partly asphalt/concrete road.


Time: 1am to 7pm for 50 miles
1:30am to 5:30pm for 60K

Time barrier: 18 hours for 50 miles
16 hours for 60k

Race Proper
Few minutes past 11:00pm we finally reach Clark, Pampanga grounds. That was really a very fast ride. We had to rush to the starting line to claim our race bib. Lots of familiar faces, most  runners were already set and ready for the race,  just waiting for the race briefing and gun start. Had to stay focused and think clearly what food I need to carry on my hydration pack that hopefully will sustain me for over 17 hours. My drop bag did not reach on time but it is all fine. Fixing my things while partly listening to the race briefing, I really do not know if I really understand fully what was being said. Multi tasking at the knick of time is just too complicated but one thing I put clearly in my mind, I will do my best to stay on the trail, follow the trail signs, run with other runners, not be lost and just have fun while pushing within the time that I set for myself. That is the plan.

Standing at the starting line while waiting for the count down to come was exciting. I am not just with the few elite ultra runners of the country but also with few great runners from Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Australia. With our head torches on, we proceed with the race after hearing the final count down. Full of energy and hope, I just proceed with my own slow running pace. From road to trail until it leads to the start of the lahar area. The trail signs of big orange flags and blinkers  are very visible and made things easier for runners to navigate on a dark night passing through a no permanent trail lahar site. Each of us has to  pass through several river beds with mostly ankle deep water. I push a little faster on sand and walk on water until I reach the first aid station 10 minutes before my target time. I am not too hungry yet but I opted to get small bite of food. First 7km done.

The next 9km distance passes through mountain trails with ropes, lahar and river crossing again, some parts of hardened road. I was with other runners and trail signs are always visible. Though it started to drizzle, I can still feel the humidity and I am sweating all over. Until few meters before the next aid station, still on the lahar area is another river to cross, this time not so wide but raging one. I though to be extra careful in crossing but to the contrary I got off balanced and fell on the water. With my front part submerged in the few inches below the knee deep water I regain my balance with sand all over may face, and on my clothes. I check my left knee, ankle and legs for any injury, all fine and no pain, thank God. Oh well, what a good way to cool off myself. I continued on and reach AS2 30 minutes before my target time. 16km off the distance. A few sip of mountain dew (which  leads me to trouble later on the race). From As2 to As3 will be mostly rough road and sugarcane plantation and I am glad I did not get lost on the area that trail signs were not so visible. I was on track until I reach the road which is already a familiar terrain for me. I was still dark and I reach AS3 with my running family on the aid station, Ayala Triads. So happy to see them.

Though I did not have any drop bag for my food, I just eat whatever is available on the station. Feeling a little uneasy on my stomach, I started to drink few sip of cowhead choco milk. I proceed to the next station. I am already familiar on this terrain, I know too well when is  the next uphill and downhill, the next bend and curve. Yes literally,  for I have been here several times. The rough road has been newly cleaned and cleared, I just do not know if its because of the race or it was just scheduled to be cleaned. I reach AS4 more than an hour ahead of my scheduled time, refill my hydration, drink more choco milk again and proceed with the next 10km distance to the peak and the turn around point of this race.

This is the part of the trail that I haven't run in the past and I am glad I hook up with Benj. It's a single track trail that goes up and down the mountain slope with beautiful scenery from time to time. It is here the we started meeting the fast runners on their way back to the next station. As the 10km distance seems to be taking forever and the turn around point seems to be nowhere to be found, I had to start digging deep on all the steep uphill and gaining my strength on the downhill. I really wish I brought with me my trekking pole. Last minute decision of taking it off from my gear was not a good decision at all. Later the gusty wind pick up and fog covered the scenery as we come to the ridge of the race course. Until one final push is the turn around point, finally. While others take time to sit down and rest, after my number has been noted by the marshal without wasting my time I proceed back. Two hours before the cut off time and an hour ahead of my target schedule. On our way back I asked Benj if we have the luxury of time (he has done this before and he said he was one of the buzzer beater then). When he replied that we are just in time, its where I think, oh know, I am not even safe from the cut off time yet. Going back to AS4 is another challenge. I have to navigate the terrain that I push deeper earlier, which means its the same effort. Until after sometime I just let Benj and Jon go ahead and I slowed down a bit. Reaching AS4 is a big relief, though I am an hour earlier from my target schedule I know I am into a little trouble. My stomach. I cannot eat much solid food anymore, I have been thinking of my pears and other food and my protein drink.

Two kilometer downhill to the falls will be easier I thought but I cannot hold my stomach anymore. I go off trail and did my thing. Nature calls and I just cannot hold it anymore. Thank God tissue paper and wet ones are my mandatory running items.  That took off few minutes of my time but I was glad I did it, it was a big relief. Few runners pass me by  but I did not care. With drizzle on and off since we started and a downpour of rain came, the trail became slippery, I had to navigate on a slower pace just to avoid injury and accident. And finally I arrive at the falls. Of the several times that I visited this place, it was only this time that I take a deep on the water and it was a refreshing feeling. After few minutes I proceed back but it was already a struggle for me to reach  the 2km uphill trail to the Junction station. I feel weak and tired.  I am on my slowest uphill push. I arrive the junction station an hour earlier than my target time but I only forced myself to take any solid food available. With legs now sore, I proceed down to the next station. I know it will take me longer on this part of the trail as I always do in the past.  I arrive AS3 an hour to spare from the cut off time. I have to use the toilet again, look for food after and find some cold drink. Thanks to the support vehicle with kind crew who offered me cold sweetened banana, lots of ice cubes and rice. I take advantage of taking some solid food. The way back to AS2 took me longer, arriving an hour and 55 minutes after. With my tired legs I just cannot run a faster stride on the road and trail anymore. All the more the steep ascend becomes challenging to negotiate with slippery ground now.

My hope of reaching 2 hours before cut off at AS1 was short of 15 minutes, giving me an hour and 45 minutes to cover the remaining 7km to the finish line. Having done this part on less than an hour earlier, I know I am safe from the cut off time. But the river swell and becomes wider and deeper, and its getting dark again.  I thank the several runners who walk, run, crawl, held my hand as I cross the river, show me the shortest way to tackle on the lahar area.  I thank God I managed to go out of this part really safe and not getting lost. The last 3 km is all road but I cannot run any faster pace and bigger stride any longer. Those runners that I run ahead few hours ago all catch up with me, but it was all fine, I know I will be on time before the cut off. I am so glad and happy as I step on the grass ground with 20 minutes to spare from the cut off time. Few more strides I will be done with this. I continue with my running pace until I cross the finish line. It was already dark, I got few of my friends worrier but I know I can make it. 

It was one tough race. With a tight cut off time on a varied terrain, this is not an easy race to do, it isn't be given 2 UTMB points if not because of that. Huge congratulations to the race organizer, Atty Jon Lacanlale for a well organized trail race  with international standards,  markers  and trail signs of big orange flags with blinkers as well as reflectorized orange and gray tapes and orange spray paints with yellow caution ribbons are all very visible and clear, volunteers and race crew are very friendly, aid stations are well stocked with variety of food  and hydration. The crucial curves and intersections has marshals to make sure runners safety. Ropes are set up on danger terrain.

The 87 kilometers race course of road, mountains, lahar and river crossings including that of sugar cane plantation,  and trails of steep ascends and wicked descends, with some heat and drizzle  may not give most of the runners any chance to relax and rest but it makes the race more exciting and fun. On my personal note, the full gaiters helped a lot on keeping  my shoes clear from sand and pebbles. There was never a time that I had to take off my shoes and clean it. I may got three small blisters on my toes but it was all manageable. One thing I should have brought though is my trekking pole, it could have been of great help. I fail on my nutrition and hydration this time which a continues learning and experiment  for me as I go on with my extreme adventure.

I thank the generous people who made it possible for me to be on this race, to Joseph Sibal, Bernard Enriquez and Russel Hernandez, may your kind heart be always rewarded thousand folds back.  I thank the Lord for giving me the strength, the faith and the grit to finish the race. The mountains will always be my home.

Next stop will be Cavinti Trail Run.


1 comment:

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