Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Half Marathon Trail Run Finisher!

The Nature's Trail Discovery 1 was my third attempt to complete a Half Marathon distance for Trail Running for this year. For one reason or another, the other two Trail Runs I registered for did not let me attain my goal of being a Half Marathon Finisher.

I have done a lot of Half Marathon Road Races and a few Full Marathon Road Races in the past but doing a Trail Run poses its own challenges verses a typical road race. You have to watch where you are stepping on, you have to be careful on the road, you may have to crawl on certain parts or hold onto tree trunks or tree branches just to clear the obstacles nature put there. You will always be slower in a trail run as opposed to the smooth concrete roads of a road race. Challenging as it may be, it is also rewarding once you have conquered it. And the view is almost always spectacular as it takes you away from the busy streets and buildings of the metropolis and puts you right in the heart of nature.

The race start for both the 10km and 21km categories was by the Multi-Purpose Gym of Barangay San Andres of Tanay, Rizal but as this was my first time coming to this place, I got a little bit lost driving here, and by the time I arrived at the venue, I was more than 15 minutes late and I even saw the 10km runners take off! Man, I had a lot of catching up to do!! Good thing the race marshals acted quickly and directed me immediately to a vacant lot, where I parked my car and went to the starting line. I didn't do any more stretching or warm up exercises as I didn't want to be left behind in the mountains! I was literally the last runner on the road as there was nobody in front or behind me. In an ordinary city road race that was fine, but this was an unfamiliar trail run in the middle of the Sierra Madre regions that we are talking about! I didn't want to get lost in a place so far away from home!!

That fear lead to an adrenalin rush as I ran to try and catch up with runners and after ten minutes of running by myself, I finally caught up to some 10km runners. I hoped that this was the same route for all runners and that I wasn’t running in the 10km course only.

This, being a mountain 1,960 feet high and requiring us to reach its top by any means possible! Of course, I didn't know this detail at that time I was there (and good thing too or I would have quit this race!) and just kept going. I had stopped running and struggled to reach the peak. My legs were working double time for me and I had to make sure that I was stepping at the right places.

I was glad that I wasn't alone here and I was with a lot of trail runners. There was a natural camaraderie even though I have never seen them before today as we all gave each other positive encouragements, a quick smile or two, and generally shared stories about our experiences here.

Midway up this steep mountain, the view was fantastic! We were above the clouds and can see the wide plains below us. A lot of people stopped to appreciate the views or to take pictures of the scenery. I used that as an excuse to catch my breath as my heart was thumping so fast that I could already feel it!

It was a vicious cycle for me going up here – rest, climb, rest, climb, rest, and climb! It took me a long time but I reached the peak and saw the great view of Rizal below. There was a banana and water station at the top for runners to take a break and to do some stretching.

As soon as I felt that I was okay, I continued in my trail run as I had a long way to go. The difficulty in going up the mountain was similar to going down as well. There were a lot of runners who slipped and fell here (myself included). Shouts, screams and laughter can be heard all the way down from different people and from different locations. It was like we were all inside one big roller coaster as it was getting ready for the big plunge down! It was that steep! I went down the safest way possible: by sliding down the mountain and holding onto the branches and tree stumps to slow down my descent.

Thank God that I got to the ground safe and sound. By that time, I was clearly exhausted and I haven't even covered 1/4th of my race distance! There was nowhere else to go but to follow the paths so I started to run again. I didn't care anymore about whether I could catch up with the 21km runners. I just wanted to finish this race!

There were ample marshals at critical turns of the race and I crossed a few creeks to head on to... Mountain # 2! This was… INSANE!! But luckily, it wasn't as steep as the first one and I was able to run (more like a jog-walk now) as I headed up again. I was alone again as the 10km runners went off to a different direction. Good thing the organizers did a great job in managing the course by putting various big yellow tape on trails that we weren't supposed to run on. It was also an indication that at least I was on the right path. One of the nice sights that I passed by was this big waterfall! I have never experienced this before in any of my trail runs and glad that I could see this unexpected surprise!

Pretty soon, I reached the second mountain peak and ran down that mountain. It was an exhilarating feeling to have conquered all these things! I also appreciated God's work on Nature. It was a sight to behold.

After what seemed like a long time, I caught up with some 21km runners and that boosted my confidence level somewhat, but I knew that I still had a lot of distance to cover. The trail was flat now and I did a few river crossings. At first I didn't want to get my feet wet but after a while, with the strong heat of the sun above me, I welcomed the cold rivers and streams and took them as opportunities to cool myself by pouring water on my head and arms.

There was also a nice suspension bridge that we had to cross offering more fantastic views of this area. I ran on it with four other runners and we all felt the bridge sway side to side as we moved across it.

There were more river crossings (I lost count after four) and more running on the plains. By this time I saw a lot of 21km runners but they were all heading back! I ran through three “barangays” or districts here before the turn back.

Around here, there was another reward for runners as "buko" or coconut juice was given to runners as refreshments. As the line was long here, I was content with my water and ran again. I had 3 GU gels with me and all were consumed at different parts of this race. I was tired and I couldn't run continuously anymore. I walked on the shaded areas and ran when there was no shade. At this point, it was all just a mental game for me. After what felt forever, I saw the sign that I had waited for a long time. It simply pointed to the right side and read, "To finish line". I can't wait!!

I went up that last hill and saw the white finish line calling out to me silently. As I ran to it, I saw some friends there cheering for me.

As I crossed it with a big smile on my face, I thought to myself, “I did it! I'm a Half Marathon Trail Run Finisher!”

I got my loot bag, my finisher medal and my finisher medal. I can finally relax and sit down!

What a crazy, crazy experience but one I will never forget! I felt truly accomplished that day!

Thanks Pimco Sports Events for this great event!

So glad I finished this race!


run unlimited said...

Congrats! I didn't see you there though. Merrel next?

RunningAtom said...

Congratulations Dennis! That was such a feat! See you onto the next trails :)