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The landscape of the hilly slopes and rural backdrops of Tanay, Rizal, specifically, the winding roads of Marcos Hi-way right about the vicinity of Ten Cents to Heaven, a cozy and idyllic resort place that served as host for the event, provided the perfect set-up for a fabulous and challenging Sierra 51050 race. I made it a point to experience this race, this route, for the sheer challenge that their topography brings. I may not be a hundred percent ready to “eat hills” for 21K but I bit the bullet. I have to do this or else face the curse of the Sierra Madre!
 

Would you believe that I could have missed everything due to my carelessness? I was awoken from my dreams of pleasant and surreal places most dreams usually are by a ring. The sad thing was that it came not from my alarm, but from a phone call. I dismissed it as Red, my supposed companion going to the race, being early in our meet-up place and inquiring my whereabouts. I know deep in my mind that I had the alarm set at 1 a.m. to be able to make it at McDo Shaw by 2 a.m. Unfortunately, it was not Red! Neither was it the alarm! It was Shiella of Shuttle’s Best, the service van provider, calling me because it was already departure time! In short, I was too late!
 

Cursing the alarm and blaming everything else except myself for this mishap, I became restless and thought about dreadfully spending the rest of the day dreaming of what could have been. Fortunately, I have my phone loaded with internet credits. While I was sending an SMS to Shiella telling her to leave without me and asking Red if he was already there, which by the way he was not and was not able to for the same reason as I, some viber conversations popped out. They were between Roselle “The Running Diva” Dadal and John Henry “Sigue Corer Website” Mariano, my blogger companions to the race, conversing on how they could commute going to the race location of Tanay. Roselle volunteered that she had an idea how and that both of them are to proceed in the same meet-up at McDo. I interjected if they could wait for me in 30 minutes, as I had not yet prepared myself. They agreed and in a flash I was there in half the time I estimated from my place at Upper Bicutan. Early morning vehicular traffic was simply superb!
 

The mode of transportation, we took by the way was jeepney from Crossing to Tanay Rizal. Supposedly it is another jeepney transfer from the Tanay terminal going to Sampaloc, however, we found that it may take a while for the jeepney to fill up. Instead, we chartered a tricycle for P300, a hundred bucks for each of us, going directly to Ten Cents to Heaven. We arrived there just as the race started. Heading straight to the baggage counter and readying ourselves to race, Roselle and I took a good ten minutes before we were finally able to start our run. John made a dash to catch up with the rest of the runners leaving us behind.
 

It was just the first few kilometers of the race and we instantly were initiated with what punishment lies ahead – two kilometers of continuous downhill meant same distance going uphill as it was an out and back portion deep into the adjacent barrio before heading for the hi-way. The elevation of this segment was steep, as in very, very steep or walking-only-and-cannot-be-running steep.
 

By the time we reached the hi-way, I made a mental note that the toll of this hard elevation segment will manifest after the 10K mark. It did, right after the 5K mark! Ha-ha! Thus, it was all “kembot” (fast walking) pace for me all throughout. It was a good thing I had Roselle and Sir Rene “Jazz Runner” Villarta (I had the great honor and opportunity to be running side-by-side with the local running community’s premier bloggers and runners) to accompany and pace with me for most of the first half of the race. Sir Rene in fact provided a great run-walk interval segments taking some posts for our mark. This persuaded me to run for several meters before resuming my “kembot” pace. Roselle though patient and considerate in the first half, but right after we did our U-turn somewhere slightly past midpoint of the race, she just proceeded to embrace her Running Diva persona and blazed the remainder of the distance as if she were on a flat surface. I tried with all my might, my soul and my pride, but they simply proved futile. I cannot level up with the diva! Sir Rene, the constant and cool runner that he is and the fact that he just ran 16K yesterday, maintained his comfortable pace behind us. We left him after he provided us with witty conversation and even took some of his cookies! Ha-ha…. We are bad!
 
 

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Roselle, The Running Diva, alighting the tricycle that we rented from Tanay terminal to Ten Cents To Heaven in a diva way!

 

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Two divas posing together along the route. No matter how hard the run, no traces of that should show as the camera flashes. Running divas should know this “golden rule” by heart!  Photo credit: Sir Rene Villarta

 

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Posing with RJ Knight Runner of Running Photographers and Team USB.  Photo credit: Sir Rene Villarta

 

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Half-way our run at a hydration station, we were lucky to have another Running Photographer, Jose Ramizares, in our midst who took this photo for us.  Photo credit: Sir Rene Villarta.

 

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Throughout the first part of this run, I saw myself exchanging chit chats with the local running community’s premier running bloggers.  This opportunity was simply memorable!  Photo credit: Jack Morales

 

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It was my pleasure leading the way, well, at least for several meters before Running Diva blazed the remainder of the distance after the U-turn.  Photo credit: Jack Morales

 

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Posing for Running Photographer Jack Morales who positioned himself at the U-turn Hydration station.  Photo credit: Jack Morales

 

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All alone now walking the rest of the way to the finish line.  Photo credit: Jack Morales

 

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But not before I made my last pose for Papa Jack Morales. Photo credit: Jack Morales.

 
 
Along the route, I spotted a number of support vehicles of the relay teams. They each have five runners taking turns of 10K in completing 50K. Most of them were either my Wednesday Group of Runners team mates like the Sigue Corer Runners, Team USB and Running Photographers, or simply running acquaintances. The familiar and friendly faces I saw while I was heaving and suffering in this majestic area of Tanay just some few minutes from the Metro lessened the burden and made this experience very worthwhile. Not to mention the refreshing pastoral and rustic sceneries providing a much welcome distraction in complete contrast to the congested and polluted Metro routes we are accustomed to. Powerful motor bikes growling in undeniable horse power come zigzagging the winding asphalt roads in a beeline of seeming choreographed moves provided another visual and auditory entertainment. They can, however, be intimidating and caution-worthy for the runners and other vehicles as well. Though I finished at around 9 am, the cool mountain breeze in a sunshiny clear blue sky, likewise, made my walking in an insanely uphill route, bearable and, in fact, fun!
 

I ate arroz caldo right after I finished the race, my very first likewise, and it was priceless! I told the seller that eating some steaming hot, rice porridge with chicken meat right after an intense race was just surreal, like the dream I had. In fact, I was reminding myself that indeed I am here in the hills of Tanay rather than at home sleeping, or cursing myself for not going. I took a peek at the majestic rolling slopes of Sierra Madre just by the pool outside the main lobby of Ten Cents to Heaven where the raffling off of several Spyder Optics, bags full of Light Water and Vitamin Boost (I won a bag, yahoo!) was taking place. In fact the crystalline pool itself was enticing me to take a plunge, a great way to cool down after running. I am wearing a trisuit under my running shirt, but I did not have any spare shorts. So I simply content myself with taking selfies while sipping the restorative Vitamin Boost drink instead, while the rest of my running bloggers Franc Ramon and CJ “Run Adobo King” Lampad were taking turns posing before this awe-inspiring backdrop.
 

While I was walking and almost near the finish line, I happen to converse with another runner in obvious distress – small and cozy races like this one provides moments like this. He was complaining of his leg muscles tightening up making him unable to run anymore. I asked if he was having cramps. He was not. I told him that It was simply the rigors of running and walking uphill that caused them. I learned likewise that it was just his first run and a 21K uphill race at that mind you! So I suggested he try some lower distances first in an easier and flatter route than Sierra 51050 before leveling up the half marathon distance. But I suppose it was just the irresistible call of Sierra Madre that even a newbie like him cannot resist. I proceeded with my slightly-faster-than-his walking pace right after assuring him that he can walk the rest of the distance. I have yet to continue with my dreams of pleasant things and that involves finishing this race. I went home very contented right after and promised myself to be back next year and to at least try to run the majority of the distance, he-he…

 

Sierra 51050 was definitely much better than running the landscapes of my dream.
 
 

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Doing selfie amidst the majestic Sierra Madre terrain.

 

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Posing by the pool of Ten Cents To Heaven Resort.

 

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Posing more!

 

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The lobby area of Ten Cents To Heaven that served as the race’s activity area.

 

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The hard-earned medal!

 

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Yes I did!

 

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Nothing more refreshing and rehydrating than Lightwater and Vitamin Boost!

 

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Posing with some running friends including Jose Tuason and Rhina Sison who placed third in the 21K category!