Wednesday, May 7

TNF100 Baguio Benguet Philippines 2014 - When in Doubt, Just Do It!!!!

"This is going to be a long one, my dear."

I believe life is an individual journey. Be it going for ones career path or personal dreams, achieving financial freedom or spiritual growth, running a longest race or climbing the highest mountain, in the end what matters most is  ones choice, the decision one makes which path to take. But I also believe that whatever path one will take, it is always best to be traveled with  people  especially those who matters to you most: family, friends, life coaches and mentors, business partners, loved ones. They are the support group that gives more meaning to what one is aiming for. They are the people who stick with you no matter what happens, they are the people who cheers you up when you are down, they are the people believe in you especially when you yourself is having doubt.

The same thing goes with running. It is a very individual sports yet it matters a lot to have a support group who will be there in training sessions, run with you side by side on races or waiting for you at the finish line, will be there with you savoring the victory or sharing the pain, disappointments and frustrations or joy and happiness during and after the race.

Photo credits to Blue 
TNF100 Baguio Benguet 2014 - Will I Really Do It?  
I run in almost all the TNF races in the country, who will not support them, I have them as my major gear in almost all my climb expeditions especially my high altitude alpine climbs. I am just an avid fan. From the 25km distance on the muddy trails of Batangas way back 2008 and 2009  to the 100 kilometer on the mountain slopes of Camsur on 2011 up to the rugged terrain of the mountainous area of Baguio Benguet  year 2012 and 2013. I have been there in almost all the races and here I am again this year, my 3rd year of running the same distance on the same trail. I was suppose to run this race this year with a friend, the very reason I thought of running this for the 3rd time, with a running partner, who volunteered to be  my pacer and his pacer as well with one goal, we will cross the finish line together. But that did not happen. When I found out  that my friend cannot make it,  I was having second thoughts if I will really do the race again this time. 

With that, it took me a while to decide to finally join the race. The last minute decision made me become creative on where I can possibly get a 100km race bib. It became a bib hunting for me. But God was just too kind, He led me to the right people. I was able to confirm that I can run 2 days before the race and it was my wish, a 100km distance. I did not expect much on how I will perform on this race. As I am seriously working on my speed, I have been running shorter distance on the road for more than two  months now. In fact this very race is a deviation from my training runs. My last trail run was 32km Salomon Race almost a month ago. I only hope my muscle will remember all that I went through on this very same trail having to run this for the third time. 

A the race briefing 
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
With the race held first week of May as compared to the last two years that it has always been on a 3rd week of April, it has been raining up North especially in Benguet area several days before the event. Whether this was an effect of the climate change or it was already rainy season on this side of the country, I had to be prepared for whatever condition come race day. Anticipating the rain, I prepared two sets of jackets (water repellant and gortex), trash bag and rain coat, 2 sets of headlamp, waterproof all my things inside the hydration pack and brought lots of trail food (1 set I carry with me while the other spare is at the half way mark). Mind setting become part of my preparation. How do I do it? I always associate the projected weather and terrain condition to what I had been through in my races and expeditions in the past. This time, I imagine that this is going to be as wet and cold and wild as climbing Mt. Halcon, one of the toughest mountain in the country. And just like Halcon, it is also expected that there will be blood sucking leeches on the forest area, so a rubbing alcohol spray is always at my reach in my hydration pack. 

Race Day
Excited.  I came to the starting line excited especially that I know I will be running and sharing the trail with lots of friends, with some elite runners both local and international. Three of the famous race directors of the country will also be doing the race. Rare moment. The weather was not cold as I thought it will be, it was not raining too. Thank God. As soon as we were released, I was just taking my own slow pace, warming up my body, catching up my breath. From the road to the trail, I share the race with other runners especially those of my same pace. It's dark, the trail was slippery and wet and some parts were muddy. I just have to be extra careful and....the trail signs... I don't want to be lost again just like last this early part of the race I was one of those who made a wrong turn. The weather was cold enough for a good start. Few runners catch up with me, I catch up with others as well. I was with Daphne and other runner friends on this part of the trail. I arrive Aid Station 1 earlier than I expected. 

 I was approaching AS2 almost day break. It is always breath taking to see the silhouette of the contour of the mountain from peach dark  black until the green mountain slope with pine trees slowly become visible with vast mountain ranges with mountain peaks standing above the sea of clouds. Such view always fill my soul. This makes every mountain trail running always a spiritual experience for me. I can't help but shout with thanks for giving me another chance to be one with nature again. From AS2 to AS3 is mostly uphill, covering several mountain hills mostly on the trail between pine trees. I was with my friend Rashel. It is always fun running on this part of the trail, pushing a little harder on the ascends. The winding uphill rough roads with loose rocks and some cemented parts is always a sign that I am almost to the next station, but of course I have to endure with more and more going up, up and up. If one will look back where he is coming from,  the elevation is getting higher and one can see the community a bit lower where the trail is coming from. A sign of almost at the aid station is the house made of galvanized roof, it has sari sari store that has food and soda that one can replenish before finally reaching the aid station. Just like last year, I did not stop on this place for food, I just want  to tackle the next uphill road. I was with my friend Mercy too. 

Photo Credit to Sir Remo
AS3 is such a refuge. The ice cold drinking water was a great relief,  had to refill my water bladder and gatorade bottle. The help from friends in the station is so heartwarming, more so when a yellowcab pizza was being offered and a slice of pomelo from other support crew. After a bowl of arroz caldo, who can say no to  an offer of such kind of pizza at the middle of Benguet? I grab two slices and bring it with me, eating while walking to the next part of my adventure. It gets warmer as the sun started to get higher.  I am so looking forward on this part of the trail. This is going to be at the Philex Ridge passing through several mountain slopes until it goes to the open mountain range before it enters the mossy forest before it reaches the next aid station. See, I know too well of the different parts of the trail already. For some parts  of the trail I was with my two lady friends Rashel and Mercy again, until Mercy went ahead of me and I catch up with Mommy Del. What a privilege to be sharing the trail with this great lady runners. They are my inspiration.

Photo credit to Taddy 
The Philex Ridge as always is stunningly beautiful. Seeing my climber/photographer friend Nix, who always take pictures at a certain aid station in the past two races is now assigned much earlier than I thought he will be. It was nice seeing him again. The mossy forest is much slippery and wet as I expected it to be, the rope is again situated at areas were it is needed most. As always,  I prefer using my two bare hands and my butt on tackling this part of the trail rather than using the rope. There were no leeches as I thought earlier. After the forest is the slow ascent on the side of the mountain before it finally reach the next aid station at the vegetable plantation. And I catch up with ultra runner champion Alfred too.  It is getting warmer now as oppose to the rain that every one anticipated. I grab chocolaite drink, bread and banana, refill my water and leave.

The next 12 kilometer distance will be on the hardened rough road and cemented one. This is the famous notorious relentless downhill part of Ligay exposed to the sun. I walk on my own, Mercy followed, and she is just really fast on this part of the trail, she went ahead of me. I catch up with one foreign runner at the community which I decided to take a sip of a glass of soda even if I know it might not do good to my stomach. After few meter of chit chatting with him. I asked him to go ahead, I need to go off trail and do my thing, nature calls and I cannot hold it anymore to the next aid station, I need to poo.  After that was a big relief. I just run and run and run all the way down to Kenon Road. The heat was agonizing, they said it reached 39 degrees or a little less. But no matter what the temperature was, all I know it was just really scorching and suffocating hot, hot and hot. And I had to run side ways, I don't know how I ended up running like that but it worked for me and other runners followed how I did it too.

I arrive AS5 12:45pm, my earliest among the 2 races in the past. All I asked when I arrived was ice cold water, ice cubes and just pour on myself. It was just really hot. Mercy and Yob and other runners were already resting. I had to look for my support crew, Ariel Toto and the group. They are situated few meters away from the main aid station. I tried to look for Des and Mam Shai but they were not around. I saw Madam Rowena and BR's support crew too. Seeing the halo halo is once again very tempting to eat some. But I learned from last year, I need to eat solid food first before any halo halo. I requested one but only after I ate rice and grilled chicken. My suppose to be 20 minute rest was shorter, 10 minutes, bringing my gortex jacket, replacing my headlamp, bringing more food and another 3 capsule of Coquinone, 1 pair of Essentials, Hepasil and Active Calcium, I decided to leave. To my surprise Mercy was still around and we leave for the next station together.

Together we tackle the heat on the mountain slopes of Andolor to AS6. It was  just terribly hot. I can feel the heat sapping all my energy. I cant help but stop and catch my breath as I sweat endlessly. At the covered area beside the flowing creek, another sub aid station is located with water available. There is also a free flowing water from the open water pipe. I take the opportunity to wet myself again. As we push further on all the uphill, I need to poo again. I had to ask Mercy and (oh I forgot the other runner) to just go ahead. I had to do my natures call again. With this I had to tackle the rest of the trail to AS6 on my own. I was getting weaker. After the covered trail inside the forest is a rough road, I know I am getting closer to the next aid station. Though it is still hot but at least a little air makes the condition much easier. The road is a rolling uphill and downhill until one final push of uphill before reaching the next aid station, I did not see Mercy anymore but Charm was there and other male runners. I had to refill my water, eat as much food as I can and tried to get a 5 minute power nap. Putting my feet up I tried to get some rest until Yob arrived. He went ahead, I need to visit the toilet again. This is not really good. I left after I had my 3rd poo.

From AS6 to AS7 is the longest of all the stations. It is still day time. I had to tackle the road part of this trail on my own. At some part I had to sit down and rest, I decided to take another rain soul as my energy gel, I can feel the energy rushing to my body. Before reaching the trail,  it is the road that I had to deal, rough road and cemented one. I know too well where is the next curve and the next bend, the next down hill the next uphill. Until it reach to another sub aid station.  It has ice cubes which makes me so happy. I put on my hydration bladder, refill water. As it will get dark very soon, I bring out my headlamp  and continue with my journey now on my own. Approaching the trail is the start of the never ending ascend, the agonizing uphill on the trail. I was with two more runners. After the first long uphill push I decided to rest with them, another 5 minute power nap, I just lie down on the ground near the farmland on the bushes. I was exhausted. Then tackle another ascend. Slowly I go until Sam Lapena catched up with me. I switched on my headlamp, slowly pushing myself up using my trekking pole. Andrew catch up with me and we go together up in the next mountain slope. I decided to take another nap when I reach another sub aid station while Andrew proceed. After another 5 minutes I push myself to do it on my own at first,  then slowly few more runners catch up with me, including female runners.

As I know the trail to well, I lead the pack, it was dark and with our head lamps I can see how it was. It started to drizzle. I put on my jacket and my disposable plastic rain coat. Until the rain gets harder. Towards the ascend of the 7th aid station, the highest point of this race, I had to stop making the group advance over me. I was just too sleepy. I decided to sit down beside the road on the grass. As I proceed I was already wet, on my own. I had to tackle the rough road part, before it goes to another sub aid station. Andrew was there, I decided to join him, since there were medics, I asked them to put liniment on my legs but they were hesitant, my legs are covered with full tights. I just said, just rub it on my tights. After that we proceed. At first I was with Andrew until he went ahead. It was a heavy rain with lightning and thunderstorm. I said to myself if the lightning will struck me,  for sure I will be hit by it. I was wet and cold and I can see leaches. At some point I decided to sit down again, take a short nap. Then push and push further, upward. I can see the light of the tower but I know how far it is still. Until finally I reached there. Some of those who went ahead of me was just there resting at the aid Station, I wanted to push ahead but the medics hesitate to do some limatik check on me first before I proceed. True enough there were few leeches on some parts of my body.

From AS 7 to AS8 is just a 2.5 km distance, but a very steep downhill rough road with rocks and stones on this very wet and slippery condition. The other side of the road is a deep raven which I almost fell last year by walking on auto pilot mode. This time around, I had no option but really to be alert despite my being wet, cold, weak and hungry. Few more runners catch up with me, including Mommy Del and Sexy George. The one ascend on a road before reaching AS8 is also agonizing, but I just have to endure. I learn after the race that some part of this route had landslide that road maintenance personnel had to hold some runners for several minutes for safety purposes.

AS8 is cold and I am on my several layers, I am hungry. I had another bowl of arroz caldo and decided to get inside the house with the fire place on. Several runners were there, one is in IV due to hypothermia. I decided to take a 10 minute nap. It was a little past 10 yet. After my nap I decided to leave. When I went out, it was too cold. Whow. This is not good. I decided to leave without even peeing. I have to tackle that steep long descend on this trail. Long, very long on a slippery dark terrain. Very dark, very cold. As I move faster, with all my layers it feels warmer, I had to remove my outer most layer, my disposable rain coat. I had to stop at the sub aid station of campers, they offered me food, which I did not hesitate of taking, then I pee right next to their tent,  then I proceed. The marshals reminded me to be extra careful, there are holes on the trail which they ended rescuing the runners who overshoot the steps earlier. As I move down I can here George and Mommy Del on their way. George move ahead of us and I stick with Mommy Del and Tads. We move together, in unison. I was alive, my blood flows freely, adrenalin all over. It was a continuous run all the way down to lowest most part of this valley. The drop is just too high that we have to deal, slowly the lights of the community down below appears much clearer and bigger until sound of the vehicle can be heard. A bark of a dog is a sign that indeed there is already a community and we are almost there.

Upon reaching AS9, I was exhausted. I forced myself to take some food. With the suggestion of Mommy Del to take a 15 minute nap, I joined them. Then proceed with my adventure. Upon reaching the part where it is all uphill, right above the community on the way again to the forest towards PMA, I was just really too sleepy. Looking at the blinker still far up away from where I am, I decided to step aside and sit down on the ground beside the trail. I was just too sleepy. I take another 5minute nap. Then I decided to proceed. Towards PMA, I take another rest before tackling another uphill. After this part I know it will be much easier  with a combination of uphill and downhill trail. Other runner whom I run with on this part has been asking if this really is the right trail, how come Loakan Airport took so long, how come no trail signs visible. It is still dark. I know too well of this place already and I am very sure that this is really the right trail.

AS10. Finally, I know this is just another push and I will be at the finish line. I tried to take some food, drink a little and proceed. BoyP was with me on the tarmac part, until he went ahead of me. I was all by myself on the uphill road towards Camp John Hay. The street is well lighted, it's still around 4:00am, I was on my own. I encounter two men who went down from a cab. As I pass by them, they noticed me, one asked me how come I am walking this late. Scared, I am scared of drunk people. I have trauma of drunk people, or shall I have trauma of the smell of a liquor. I walk fast, run and walk on the uphill part hoping  they will not follow me. Thank God they did not. Another uphill part a dog, very vigilant of watching his territory. I was trying to scare him with my walking sticks and headlamp and shouting at the dog,  all the more he stayed at the middle of the road to the direction where I am going. No, I cannot stand with dogs. I had no choice but to wait for another runner. And I thank God two runners came, my kompare. I was with them until inside John Hay . They were kind enough to wait for me especially on the uphill part. Until they went ahead of me again.

After several kilometers of the trail inside Camp John Hay will be another road outside the compound towards the football field. It' almost day break now. I enter once again inside John Hay to the part of the trail that will be used by the 22km runners. I was running the trail now all by myself up to the uphill part to the Yellow Trail. It was past 5:00am already. I know I am almost there. Until I come across the 22km fast runners. Now with runners on counter flow with my direction, I had to be extra careful not to bump into them and fall o the ravine. I am almost there but not really there yet really. I know too well how many more turns on the yellow trail it will take me before really reaching the finish line. The sight of the Le Monet Hotel makes my heart really so happy. Runners cheering photographers and spectators clapping, I can hear now the sound from the finish line.  I am really tired, wasted, hungry, sleepy but very fulfilled, happy, victorious. I rush towards the finish line.

I cross the finish line with so much joy. I cannot hold my tears. I know I finish much earlier this time than the past two years but my rank in the female category has gone much lower now. I don't care. Really, this year, I may not have achieved my original goal of running this race with someone else, that thought that I will share the trail from start to finish with someone and get a hug perhaps at the finish line, a crazy thought of those simple things that means a lot to me, but really I am so happy. I am really glad I push to do the race. One thing I learned, when in doubt, JUST DO IT!!!!!  Along the 100 kilometer distance that I traveled over 27 hours, I met a lot of runners of the same passion whom I share the trail with. That was more than enough for me to be elated  with so much joy aside from finishing the race on my PB, 2 hours 12 minutes much earlier than my last PB on the same race.

Thank you to all the runners whom I shared the journey with, I thank all the support crew, marshals and spectators who were kind enough to help me go through the pains and the joys. I thank those who made this race possible. To Dexter, Ariel, Daphne, Diane, Jon Las, Andrew, Ronnel. To Pedro, Oco and Ai as well. To  TNF PH, you always makes me so special. To Singphil, for your generosity. To all my family and friends who send their well wishes and words of encouragements thank you. And I thank God for giving me once again the strength to enjoy what I love most doing, be one with nature and push myself beyond what I can imagine. Where ever TNF PH will be next year, Baguio Benguet trails will always be close to my heart.

Indeed, running is a very personal thing but it is always fun to be shared with people whom I share the same passion, the love of running and freedom to explore. I thank those who inspire me to push beyond what I can imagine. And I am also always grateful to know that in my little way,  with what I am doing I am able to inspire other people to pursue their passion in life.

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