Dawn broke around six. By that time I had already been running for about an hour. Normally, I would have already covered at least 10 kilometers, but when I checked the GPS app on my phone, it said that I had covered a paltry 7 kilometers.
My goal of finishing the trail run in 3 hours now appeared impossible as my legs seemed ready to burst battery acid if I kept up this pace. With my race goal now completely out of reach, there was nothing left to do… but enjoy the scenery, take lots of photos, and have fun on the trail.
The Love a Tree International Trail Ultramarathon was held last February 10 in the Sierra Madre mountains in Tanay, Rizal. I signed up for the 24k race. Seasoned trail runners and committed masochists had signed up for the 50k ultra, but I knew I was not ready for that kind of challenge just yet.
Based on what I experienced during my first trail run last November, I had an inkling that 24k on the trail was going to be several orders of magnitude harder than a road race. I also knew that it was going to be one hell of an adventure.
The gun time for the 24k racers was 5:00AM, and it was still very dark when I arrived there. Most of the racers had headlamps on, as the sun wouldn’t come up for another hour and a half. It was also quite cold up in the mountains. But everyone was in high spirits and raring to blast through the course.
When the gun fired, none of the racers sprinted ahead though. I guess this part of a trail runner’s strategy to conserve energy for the punishing ascents later on.
The punishing ascent came rather quickly. Five minutes into the race and we were already climbing up the same steep, rocky, pothole-plagued non-road where I drove down earlier. Everyone’s pace slowed to a zombie shuffle. I don’t know if anyone bothered running up that segment, but I didn’t see them.
The milder ascent of Marcos Highway was a relief for many who got the wind knocked out of them by the earlier ascent. By the time we got back on the trail, the sky was already starting to glow in the cool blue light signaling that dawn was less than an hour away. Morning was breaking.
When the sun started rising over the mountains, I was already atop the summit. What a view it was. Just breathtaking. But then again maybe my breath had already been taken earlier by the ludicrously steep ascent. Whatever.
Times like these confront you with an existential dillema. Should you push on hard and aim for the best time possible? Or should you take a pause to soak in the scenery, snap a few photos, and chat with fellow runners?
I opted for the latter. Since I was not going to be a 3-hour finisher anyway, I thought that I might as well have a bit of fun. Here are some of the pics I took long the route.
But all in all it was still a pretty good run. I crossed the finish line at 4:00:09 (according to a race official). This was much better than my first trail run–a 21k event where I finished in 4:28:43. The GPS app on my phone meanwhile said that the 24k route I just ran actually totaled more than 28k. Not bad, I guess there was some improvement. The 21k uphill run which I did just two weeks earlier certainly helped prepare my legs for this.
Congrats to everyone who participated and had fun!