Starting line for the Caliraya Uphill Challenge Level 2 2013
Pavement pounders can’t wait to test themselves against Caliraya’s punishing uphill road.

The road to Caliraya Lake is a bikers’ playground. The twisty, moderately ascending pavement is perfect for motocyclists who want to improve their skills with the twisties. Cyclists meanwhile are sure to get a better workout here than on Antipolo’s traffic-choked Sumulong highway.

But for runners, the 3-4 kilometer climb to Caliraya Lake will count as serious punishment. For road runners who are more used to the flat roads and gentle slopes of BGC, it would definitely be a sufferfest.

21k runners rush through the starting line of the Caliraya Uphill Challenge race
21k runners rush through the starting line of the Caliraya Uphill Challenge race.
Photo courtesy of Caliraya Runners.

Which was why I was surprised to find more than a hundred runners showing up for the 21k Uphill Challenge last January 26. Were people getting tired of the usual urban road run? Or was it because a growing segment of the road running community was developing a taste for altitude?

The view from Caliraya. Right photo courtesy of Running Photographers.
The view from Caliraya. Right photo courtesy of Running Photographers.

In my case, I had always wondered about what it would be like to run all the way up to Caliraya ever since I first visited it. Caliraya is a man-made lake right smack up the Lumban and Cavinti, Laguna mountains. It is a beautiful postcard-pretty place where a cool breeze always seems to be blowing. For weekend vacations, Caliraya can easily give Tagaytay a run for its money.

Caliraya Lake on a sunny day.
It was cloudy on the day of the race itself, but this is what Caliraya Lake looks like on a sunny day.

Since I knew that running up Caliraya was not going to be a walk in the park, I did a bit of training to prepare myself for the 21k run. Two weeks before the event, I practiced running uphill by taking on Timberland’s infamous “The Wall.”  After taking a few runs up and down this steep road I earned enough confidence to know that I was not going to collapse into a puddle of sweat and tears in Caliraya.

Race day finally came. The starting line was crammed full of really fit people and some who looked like they were genetically engineered to give weekend warriors like me a serious inferiority complex. Fortunately, the training paid off. While I was not among the elites in the lead pack, I was keeping up with the stronger runners on the agonizing uphill portion of the run.

Caliraya Lake on a sunny day
Picturesque Caliraya can be an alternative to Tagaytay. Not much traffic hassle here.

I was passing several other runners and  felt like thumping my chest in triumph until… a freak of nature swooshed past me. Itago na lang natin sya sa pangalang Super Lolo. The guy must have been 60 at least, but he was running like a man 40 years younger. All I could mutter while eating his dust was: “Pag laki ko, gusto ko maging ganyan! ” It was a relief when the road became flatter and the lake came into view.

The sight was almost enough to soothe away the pain in my legs. I wanted to stop and take some snapshots, but I was mindful of the clock. I guess that’s the trouble with road races. Despite the beautiful scenery, you cannot really forget that you are in a race.

Caliraya uphill run finisher shirt and medal
Caliraya Uphill Challenge gave a very well designed finisher shirt and medal.
A big kudos to the Cairaya Runners who organized the event!

This was not the case with my last event which was a trail run. At the 21k trail run in Tanay last November, I did not care about setting a personal record as much as enjoying the scenic spots that the route was offering. Anyway, that’s next on the agenda. I am still happy to have finished the Caliraya 21k Uphill Challenge and chopped off nearly 15 minutes from my last 21k road race.

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