First Time Mo?

I have delayed trail running for so long that it became inevitable not to given the frequency and the quality of these kind of runs nowadays.  And to think that I have had my share of a number of trekking sojourns in nearby mountains of Batangas and Zambales!

The very factor that usually sets me off joining is the location these kind of events are held – mountainous terrains, river crossing, muddy, rocky, grassy landscapes, etc. which are mostly in the outskirts of the metro at the nearest.  This entails me to wake up much earlier than I do during road races and to commute with a bevy of means given my lack of personal vehicle.  I abhor waking up early much more commuting with nil of an idea how to going to such race locale!

The confines of BGC pavement despite the wonderful architectural works, the wide and inviting super highway that Roxas Boulevard is and the circuitous but challenging route around the MOA and Aseana area, when done at a weekly frequency can become soporific.  Rambunctious and uplifting running friendships notwithstanding, I am more often than not running kept to myself by my blaring earphones piping in my pace music and my endorphin induced stupor.  My legs kind of move like some possessed distal appendages sapping my energy but seem detached from my trunk. Robotic and customary, that’s what road running had been for me lately.

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Nuvali is the Place to be!

Nuvali at Sta. Rosa, Laguna had been the fave location of numerous races, running and biking included, given its long undulating but well-paved roads, with the availability of areas of varied terrains nearby aside from the rustic atmosphere of fresh air and equally refreshing sights that is but a few minutes from the metro. Philippine Tourism Association made use of all these fabulous qualities by making it as the venue for its trail run PTAAkbo Trail Run 2013.

Thanks to FRD Riza who just arrived from Thailand and offered to take the rest of the team to Nuvali without the hassle of using public transportation very early in the morning.  Despite this convenience though, it was still a very early morning wake up time for me – 1:30 am.  The convergence area for five of us hitchers, Red Ginger, Ivan, Jose, Jet and me, is Jollibee-Guadalupe, our usual meeting place.  Then off we went a few minutes before 4 am and arriving at the area a few ticks before 5.

The Gun Start Confusion

Thinking the gun start to be a 5, we hurriedly took some carbo bite like a tuna sandwich for me and some sip of water before heading for the starting chute.  There were just a handful of runners about so we thought the registration was not that successful.  But when it was way past the supposed gun start time and still no clear activities leading to the release of runners are evident, we asked around only to be informed that it is actually 6 am.  With the arrival of more runners as that time nears, all of us were cleared of the starting chute and led by the marshals to the humongous stage area by local race standards at the activity site which in itself is huge and spacious where the stretching exercises will be held.  Naturally, our hard headed bunch did not follow suit and stayed where we are and opted to do our own warming up rituals ourselves.

Gun start was at 6 and off the runners went towards the slightly muddy single file trails by the grassy unoccupied spaces where one needs to be very careful and vigilant of where ones feet land.  Some uneven footing with some holes big enough to take ones balance off should be properly and attentively managed to avoid falling incidents which can lead to nasty sprains and cuts.  I even passed one runner with some fresh wounds from tripping off rocky protrusions which mostly are not that big enough to see from afar but not small enough not to accidentally trip over.

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Our group upon arrival at Nuvali
Our group upon arrival at Nuvali
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Fab and fast Rhina!

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With fabulous friendships Jose, Jef and Daisy.
With fabulous friendships Jose, Jef and Daisy.
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Mamaw Ilonggo pair of Josephine and Nestor from FTI
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The Fab Group with Sir June Real.

The Challenging Challenges

Challenges abound this kind of race for every nook and corner deserves special attention.  Sudden rise and fall of the surface can suddenly put the runner in an aerobic debt without him or her realizing it.  Leg muscles will burn at just a matter of a few Ks into the run in a way that initial pacing will be ineffective and needs frequent tweaking to finish with a little left in the fuel tank.  Add to these are the muddy and slippery path making each stride more of an effort to manage forward momentum than just mere motions of running.

Trees with branches just opening up enough space for one or two runners, bushes with branches sticking out pointedly, and sharp glass blades are just some of the challenges of navigating areas of thick foliage safely and without rashes, cuts and wounds.  Special protective suits like arm sleeves and tights must be used to minimize these.  There were creeks and mini makeshift bridges needing extra care in crossing lest it will crumble beneath you.

Most of the tricky parts I mentioned were mostly in the first part of the race. Past the 6K mark, it is mostly wide grassy lands with wide and more solid trails at the backyards of palatial houses not as muddy or undulating as the earlier part. 2Ks from the finish line and it is mostly cemented road one will pass.  There is even a shower station at the last K mark.

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Very tricky and steep bridge to navigate.
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Some water filled grassy part of the route
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Go Paa doing barefoot in the trail!

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Hydration and Support

Hydration stations are well-spaced in 2K or less than intervals, manned by gloved and neat looking, well-mannered and encouraging marshals.  Kudos to this!  Maynilad provided the waters at the stations.  My only regret is that they could have been colder.  Other than that I could not ask for more.  The markers are properly in place and the route marshals are situated where you will need them.  If accidents arise, medics are on hand to help.

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Alert and properly dressed marshals
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Posing by the hydration station

Lessons Learned in my First 10K Trail Run

  1. Wear trail shoes or, if none, at least not so new ones with still enough traction in the soles– I did not wear trail shoes so I was extra careful managing slippery and muddy trails.  I did not come for PR though so it did not matter much to me, but safety wise, traction shoes are a must!  Neither did I wear my old shoes so it is extra effort cleaning and trying not to over scrub lest the textured surface becomes frayed and abraised.
  2. Wear protection against foliage and hard, pointed protrusions of twigs, branches and rocks – I came in shirt and shorts with knee-high socks.  At least the socks provided some protection but tights would do much better.  I did not have arm sleeves so I try not to brush myself at shrubs, bushes and low lying trees.  It could also serve as protection against the sun when you find yourself still running way past sunrise.
  3. Bring your own hydration – I did which I usually do!  Not only is it environmentally friendly, it can save you from dehydration had the race been bereft of properly situated hydration stations.  You would not expect a hydration station neither right smack in the heart of the forest as it is logistically hard to do so!
  4. Run more conservatively than you do in road races – trail is so much harder than mostly flat and paved road races.  Extra effort and muscle power are needed in navigating mountainous and tricky trails.  Add to this is the energy exhausted in continuously being alert for tricky surface conditions like muddy pathway, potholes, rocky protrusions, sharp branches and slippery grass or turf.
  5. As I have mentioned above, not only should one run conservatively, he or she should run vigilantly for sudden changes in the foot path we are taking and for the general condition of the environment, like weather changes most especially if river crossings are involved and the next station is more than a few kilometers more.  Even a few Ks distance in the trail can mean being obscured from the marshals’ sight as if in a maze.  This makes it more challenging than the regular paved roads we are accustomed to running.

My First Pace Duty

My finishing time is not much to brag about.  In the first place this is trail running, but even though it is flat road, my body is not up to running at my utmost speed.  So I treated this race as a “fun” run for me, more so that this is my very first.  So everything and anything becomes an object of great interest to me.  The more satisfying thing for me likewise is to be able to pace first time runner Onyok, the driver of our service vehicle.  Since Riza is not prepared for this, she opted to have him run her race.  Not backing out on anything including running his very first 10k, he dived into the challenge head first!

After some 3k into the route while I am taking my time amusing myself with running in the tail end, I saw Onyok struggling to catch up with the middle of the pack.  Tailing him without him knowing for a few more steps until he totally stops, I encouraged him to run with me.  I set my time interval to 3 minutes run and 2 minutes walk.  After a few repetitions, I realized he struggles with the 3 minutes straight run.  So I tweaked it to 2:2 run walk interval which proved doable.

Running at this Galloway method, Onyok managed the entire route with but a few questions if we are already near the finish line and some hesitations whenever my watch squeals to signal the start of the run phase.  With some photo ops along the route most especially on kilometer markers and with his mouth beaming into a huge smile despite catching his breath, we made it with flying colors with a time of 1:20 minutes.  Not bad for a first timer and a trail route at that!  Well I admit there were plenty of times I literally pushed him along slightly uphill parts and made him stop a bit longer before the stretch leading to the finish line away from the sight of well-wishers and photographers crowding the end line so that he can dash through it like a pro does it.  Talk about teaching him how seasoned fun runners fake it for the cameras! Hahaha….

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The pacer and the paced before the finish line.
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Happy to cross the finish line at last!

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At the shower station

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After the Run

The great thing about trail running, or even just road running, or even biking in Nuvali is the availability of a club house where one can shower after sweating and dirtying it up in the road or trail.  Since I came prepared with bath towel and more than a pair of clean clothing for our swimming afterwards, I took advantage of this great facility with plenty of water and clean shower rooms.  Thus grime, dirt and sweat were all flushed down the drain before cramping at the back of the car, there were four long legged runners at the back seat, towards our outing destination.  At least we are all clean and fresh by then.

How I wish to stay longer in the activity area after the race hoping for my bib number to be called out since there were seemingly endless prices being raffled off.  There were plenty of booths, likewise, offering some freebies and products worth testing and buying.  The area is very spacious that you can add some more Ks into your mileage just roaming about.  But the rest of the gang is very much eager to splash in the pool that I have to bid this wonderful race area goodbye.  The memories of a wonderful first trail run for me will stay as much as this place is already meaningful for me, this is where I also did my first marathon at TBR batch 3!  Talk about many wonderful running milestone memories this place accorded me!  I bet my first duathlon or triathlon will be here too? Hmmmm…. But who knows?  This place is just so full of wonderful facilities that doing anything first here is a guaranteed success!

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