Soleus 30-Km Valley Trail Challenge Finisher

29 June 2014 — It’s about time.  I normally try to avoid trail races.  Being a road racer for quite a number of years now, I’m confident in my own turf.  But for trail running on unknown place, I get scared somehow as trail racing is a new thing for me.  I received invites for a test run or a road race in the south of Manila in the past, but I always begged off.  Yet on Sunday, I finally got to run and finished a more* than 30-kilometer (km) trail race on the trails up back in Nuvali, Santa Rosa, Laguna.
*My Garmin registered 31.46 km which is more or less almost a 2-km extra distance.  Race Director Jonel Mendoza mentioned these extra kilometers hence a cutoff time of 6 hours and 30 minutes was set to all 30-Km participants.
  
Sometimes Things Just Fall Into Place
Do you ever have those times when things just seem to fall into place, where everything will just cooperate?  It happened to me countless of times that I considered myself fortunate enough to have experienced them. 
When I received an invite from HPC assistant brand manager for Adidas Body Care Mark Antonio to join a trail race for free, I immediately took a rain check.  But Francis, a co-worker/fellow ultra distance runner, talked me into running my first trail race and found myself claiming our race kits at 100 Miles Café in Bonifacio Global City.  
I wouldn’t have met Mark if not for Que of Takbo.ph.  Que had been instrumental in getting me a free half marathon race entry to Run United 2 last June 1.  And it was Jinoe who recommended the place where I could possibly stay in Nuvali.  Thanks Que and Jinoe for being supportive.
I usually capped my Sunday training run by going to Legazpi Park for the Sunday market and buying my fave veggie siopao (steamed bun), Barako coffee, and suman (sweetened rice cake).  It was in that place where I bumped into fellow Happy Feet Caesar, and friend/ultra distance runner Ivy aka Running Contessa.  It turned out we would be in the same running event.
Hours before Race Time 
The final 24 hours before the big race are always filled with nervous anticipation that I could barely slept the night before.  And I was so glad that the hotel where I stayed has a lapping pool.   I did try to take a nap after the swim but just couldn’t sleep because my thoughts were in the upcoming race.  
Finally, the time had come for us to proceed to the event venue.  From the hotel, I together with Ivy, followed two lady runners who were also on their way.  Ivy and I jogged down the street leading to The Fields.  We arrived at the venue with 32 minutes to spare and exchanged pleasantries with fellow old new running friends.  I also dropped by at the Adidas Body Care booth and Soleus booth to just say “hello” to some people who have facilitated my entry in this race.
Couldn’t help but notice some new things though at the race venue.  I saw a Start/Finish arch pretty much like when one is in a road race.  Well, I got used to seeing the usual Start/Finish tarp placed on the road. Also, the number of participants had significantly increased that I hardly knew anyone anymore (except for a few friends in the crowd). They even installed a timing clock now.  Truly, organizing a race like this was no easy feat considering this is not a usual road race.  I even wondered how they were able to set up the hydration tent and other stuff at KM15. That was a lot of hard work on the part of the organizing team.  
 
Taken at KM 15 (Photo Courtesy of Alex Jones)
I didn’t have any game plan for this except to try and finish it before 9AM as I found the sun too hot the previous day. I also prayed that it would not rain on race day.  Thank God it didn’t.  My only concern was getting lost during the race that’s why I decided to stay at the back of the pack while waiting for gun start.  It was a wrong move on my part as it was hard to overtake once we were already traversing the trail.  Some slow moving runners didn’t know how to give way to other runners who were faster than them.  Once I saw the road ahead I tried to make up for lost time by running the first uphill.  Mind you it was an extra challenge to really find the balance when running a trail road. 
 
Those who are unfamiliar with trail running (like myself) would likely learn very quickly that one has to wear the correct shoe for the terrain since it can be difficult to navigate largely because of the unevenness of the path. Plus the fact that at times I would be ducking and dodging low branches and overgrown brushes, these definitely slowed me down. One thing I’ve learned from this race is that trail running would have more lateral movements and extra time needed to finish a good race.
I was oblivious to my surroundings, so absorbed in thought and anxious to get the race over and done with. But I did notice how beautiful the path was before KM 15. From afar, I could see runners ahead of me in a single line, some have even reached a hill, and if only l had brought with me my camera that would have been a great moment to take. When I saw a herd of cows I thought, “So this must be the “New Zealand” that they were talking about.” I saw a couple of runners took time out to take some photos with the herd.  I continued to run. Up ahead were runners on their way back.  I thought the turnaround point was almost there but I was wrong.  Those runners approaching me were the 50-km participants.  Holy smok! They were fast! It was nice to see some familiar faces, mostly batchmates in previous ultra races. I had a nice time greeting each one of them.  Just like the old days.  I never knew until I’ve reached KM20 that we, 30-km runners, wouldn’t be doing any loop.  And I was happy with that.  It became a run-walk strategy for me. 
 
My Way to the Finish Line 
 
On the last 7KMs, I did some speed play since there were lampposts on the side of this much developed path. Each lamppost became my target.  The sun shone brightly on that day.  It was no easy walking now in between overgrown grasses that at times, the clouds are a welcome respite from the relentless heat and sun.  It was here that I found myself humming songs so as not to get bored.  
Photo Courtesy of Running Photographers
What is the area of the last few meters before the finish line called, a waterway where one had to jump over it and avoid getting the shoes wet?  I jumped over it but my right foot hit first and I supposed I landed wrong that I lost my balance, teetered and almost hit my head on the ground, but a runner behind me reacted quickly enough to catch me before I hurt myself.
 
However, I had a calf muscle cramp.  The pain was excruciating and lasted five or so minutes that I almost fainted.  I couldn’t move my leg and it went numb.  The two runners assisted me and the other one even massaged my right calf.  These two guys were my angels that day.  Though I didn’t get their names, would be forever grateful to them for helping me that day.  Thank God I finished this trail race still in one piece…
 
Many, Many Thanks
 
Ivy aka Running Contessa for being with me in this race, for all the support; assistant brand manager, Mark Leo Antonio and marketing manager, Elma Magbuhos of Adidas Body Care for sponsoring my entry to this race and for accommodating my fellow runner/colleague FR Hortelano. Thank you Jinoe and Que for all the support.  Many thanks to Seda Nuvali Hotel staff Niel, Arman, and Chino for accommodating my request; Soleus brand manager Judith Staples for assisting me during the race kit claiming.  You truly are a woman of action. Team Soleus is so lucky to have you.  Jonel Mendoza, race director and Frontrunner magazine editor, thank you for the warm welcome; to Ana Que for the photo; Running Photographers for capturing the moment. Congratulations, too, to John Lozada, my running coach who, just like me, was a finisher in this race.  Kudos to all who made this race a huge success!  Until next time!