The La Mesa Nature Reserve is one of the best running and biking trails in Metro Manila. It’s always been a favorite trail of mine because it never fails to give both newbies and old timers a very satisfying endorphin kick, while making them realize what a beautiful well-preserved forest looks like. These were some of the reasons why I couldn’t pass up the chance to race in La Mesa again.
Mud, sweat and gears: we often hear these words used to describe top MTB racing events. This year’s La Mesa Offroad Duathlon was all that and more. Much more.
Last October 13, just after Typhoon Santi dumped a week’s worth of rain on Luzon before saying sayonara to the Philippines, around 200 trail runners and mountain bikers made a pilgrimage to La Mesa to test their mettle in the forest’s soaked earth. Many of them were casual bikers and first timers who wanted a get a taste of the booming multisport scene. Others apparently were triathlon veterans who wanted to add dirt to their resumes.
I wasn’t exactly a first timer, as this was my second Offroad Duathlon in La Mesa. But I didn’t consider myself a veteran either, as this was only my second duathlon ever. Despite having participated in several trail runs, and in one MTB race, I was still new to this whole multisport thing.
And just like in every race I’ve taken part in, my goal was simple: to not suck.
On paper, the route probably wouldn’t look too intimidating to multisport afficionados–6.5 kilometers of running, followed by 25 kilometers of biking, and finally another 3 kilometers of running. But as trail runners and mountain bikers know, running and biking on pavement is very different from running and biking on the trail.
This is especially true when mud is involved, and there were lots of it at La Mesa that day. It certainly looked like more than 70 percent of the course was mud—dark brown soft squishy soil with the consistency of melting ice cream. Not exactly the kind of trail conditions that any sane man would call pleasant. But for the sickos that enlist in this kind of race, it was like having a cold bowl of Ben and Jerry’s.
A lot of racers sprinted out of the starting line when the signal was given. But I tried to pace myself. Last year I sprinted along with the others, but burned myself out after a few minutes. I didn’t want to make the same mistake this year.
Compared to other trails I’ve run, La Mesa’s was pretty mild. It does not have any of the lung busting climbs of Daraitan, or the buwis buhay river crossings in Daranak. But it was slippery as hell, and the soft earth sank beneath racers’ shoes. Sometimes it felt like we were running on a course lined with flypaper.
One of my goals was to be among the first 30 or 40 racers to make the bike transition. This was crucial because it meant that the bike trail would not yet be so beat up, which meant that the trail would still be rideable and would not require too many dismounts.
I was still feeling fresh coming off the run, so I hammered away to catch up with some of the frontrunners. But as I was passing a fellow racer, he crashed and took me down with him. I checked to see if he was injured (he was not) and if my bike was okay (it was), and then resumed biking at race pace. My shin however hurt a bit from the crash.
By the second and final loop of the bike segment I was getting winded. The trail was an absolute mess that made biking seem like a calculus exam. I stopped on one of the slippery uphill segments of the trail and had a Gu, which I had been saving since the KOM race in June. This seemed to do the trick. I felt refueled and caught up with some of those who had passed me earlier.
This was it: the run of truth. On fresh legs, I could have completed the 3km route in 16 minutes or less, but by this time my legs were starting to get cramps. Many racers were also drained around this time. Most were jogging very slowly or were already reduced to walking.
But I kept running. The brick sessions I did a week earlier seemed to help. I passed several racers along the way, and had a de facto team up with a fellow racer who was running on the same pace I was. We towed each other in the final kilometer, but I was afraid that the final 200 meters was going to be an all out sprint between me and him. However, the dude graciously allowed me to pass him en route to a solo finish.
I finished covered toe to head with thick mud. Even my teeth had grains of earth in them, which made me wonder about the nutritional value of dirt. But the feeling of accomplishment was there, as the race organizers said I was probably no. 5 in my age group and no. 29 or 30 overall out of almost 200 racers.
Days later, the official results were out and I ended up no. 6 in my age category with a time of 2:49:18. Last year it was around 3:57:13 and was no. 130 out of 226 runners.
It was definitely a great event, and Adrenaline Multisport Group needs a big fist bump for this race. However, I think the organizers could also improve it further.
- Have a free bikewash and shower. I know all of the racers will appreciate this. While racers may wear their mud masks with pride while in La Mesa, I don’t think anyone wants to go home looking like they just crawled out of a hole in the ground.
- Penalize the racers who litter on the trail. La Mesa is a Nature Reserve and everyone should learn to respect that.
- Include beer in the rewards for finishing the race. Just a suggestion.
And… here are more photos from the 2013 Canon Imagerunner Offroad Duathlon in La Mesa. All photos here (except for the BC Bike Race Beer Sign) were taken by Traveling-Up.com – one of the best local travel and food websites out there.