Crossing Mendez served as the starting point of our LSD that gathered more than 80 runners from diverse running groups from the Metro like TRD, PIGS and FRD; and from Cavite like Latak, TK and MK. This is the signature fabulous lsd of FRD Alyna Bejoc. They usually pique the interest of those who wanted a challenging new route as she personally scours them during her weekly lsds. How she delivers once again!
The Ambon-ambon Falls lsd was not only challenging, it runs through picturesque and breathtaking mountainside of Tagaytay with diverse foliage ranging from fruit trees and tall grass to a grandiose canopy of century old trees! This and not to mention the Ambon Ambon and Malagaslas Falls midway where we frolicked and took pictures make this run and trek a truly memorable adventure!
After some irritating argument with an overly zealous security guard not yet on duty trying to dissuade us from parking on the Save More lot where we parked our 2 TRD service vans, it is down the slope we go! I was then thinking that this is going to be great! Of course, I was referring to the ease, though still challenging to the knees, of downhill traverse that characterized most of first half of our lsd. Then again, at the back of my mind, I was making a mental note that naturally a downslope necessitates a corresponding upslope going back the major street of Crossing Alfonso, our finish line.
I was distracted from this thought though by making sure I got a firm foot grip on the narrow newly laid cement road to stop me from sliding down some very steep portions. I had learned from Alyna and Blue that during their first two lsds here a few months ago, these cemented portions were dirt road through and through. However, these are in patches of less than a kilometer in between trail portions until past 3K when they become inexistent. Fortunately, it did not rain hard the night before and early this morning or else we have to deal with mud aside from uneven tracks of stone and soil characteristic of most country dirt roads. These and the fact that the steep topography made us run while trying to break our uncontrolled downward acceleration at the same time. My knees felt strong enough to handle this slide though.
The motorcycles carrying passengers or “habal-habal” in local dialect, provided some welcome distraction, as we needed to almost get off the road and stay by the shrubby side so that they can pass through. These I conclude are their only and feasible means of transport back and forth the town proper. Plenty of flowering and fruit bearing trees provided some nice shade and eye candy. They even nourished us like the newly fallen avocado we picked up along the road leading to the falls and the ripe guavas Juden of TRD picked straight from the trees before me made our final assault to the finish point. They were lifesaving!
After almost 4K of descent, the relatively flat and cemented valley roads opened up to a barrio with several crossroads. These posed major problems to quite a number of runners already divided into several pace sub groups by this time. The problem arisen from this particular T-intersection with this huge boulder blocking one way the lead pack mistook as a sign to take the other direction. Of course, it was there to block vehicles from entering not runners! Not only this, there are actually two Ambon Ambon Falls! Therefore, when they asked for directions from the locals, they directed them to the one nearest the area and not the “other” namesake falls.
Three sub groups got lost. The first ones reached the wrong Ambon-Ambon and made a beeline back to this culprit intersection to trace the right route. The second one did the same. Luckily, both were composed of relatively fast runners. However, the third one composed of Remus and Marvic went past the falls to almost exiting Tagaytay Sky Ranch, which is some three more kilometers of uphill run, before realizing they were lost and went back! This earned this group the moniker “Team Ligaw” headed by Remus who also got lost during our previous Alfonso lsd. Luckily, this premature climb back to where we started made them realize that they need to trace back and return to the right track.
Finally, Blue, Erich, and I, acting as sweepers, accounted all “kembot” runners albeit with some precious moments lost including the Team Ligaw. Nevertheless, hard-core runners usually welcome extra mileage in whatever forms and circumstance. Everything was in place when we proceeded for some few more kilometers from the town towards the Ambon Ambon and Malagaslas Falls resort area.
It is either I was uninformed or did not do some reading on the event page that I found myself without river sandals in my possession. We are about to cross a stream with myself in knee high socks and running shoes! Mind you, there is not one but three streams in all before reaching the resort. Without any recourse, I took off my running shoes and socks and walked the rest of the way barefoot! However, I was not alone in this predicament – Erich too
Actually, it was just less than a kilometer of weaving our way along the trail way of soil and tiny pebbles that pierce the soles of my feet like, well, walking on pebbles duh! Erich was almost in the brink of tears telling me he grew up not walking without slippers thus the sensitive soles. On my part, I was treating the feeling as a prolonged sole massage. What I was extra careful was stepping on stones while crossing the streams. I have these plantar fibromas on both feet that hurt when directly pressed on a hard surface. Other than that, I took everything as a learning experience on barefoot running, or precisely, walking. I have a new –found respect for barefoot runners as a result.
Tadaaaah‼! At last, we reached the Ambon Ambon Falls‼! The canopy of tall, century-old trees that shaded the area as if it is a hidden valley deep in the heart of an enchanted forest creates a cool and mysterious entrance. The big boulders that are scattered about this enclave and the etched rocky walls where the falls drop from its towering opening pervade us with a feeling of awe and wonder at the immensity of nature. Unfortunately, the water was muddy brown due to several days of raining. This dissuades us from taking a plunge. We contented ourselves though with taking some breathtaking pictures as souvenir before we proceeded to the Malagaslas Spring nearby.
Malagaslas Spring provided us the ideal place to take a breather and take a plunge in its refreshing clear waters. There were available tables in the area where we can temporarily lay our things down, rest our already tired legs, and gobble in some needed nutrients. The lure of the waters is just too much to resist though. I took a plunge near the top of the gushing waters and sat on the stones relishing the strong cool current on my aching muscles. The pool created by these gushing waters at the bottom has small spa fishes! This I realized only after inspecting closely the bottom of the pool. They nibble at the legs to remove dead skin cells. Runners’ feet needed a lot of that! How I wish we had more time to enjoy the spring and the scenery. But we needed to move on as a much harder task, almost 10K of continuous uphill, lays up ahead.
Not after crossing 2 more streams though! Then it was purely road running for the rest of the distance. However, the greatest of challenges is managing the steepest of the sections when forward momentum is almost near impossible! When the start of the run in characterized by continuous downslope, the rebound going back near the area where we started necessitates an equal degree of elevation progression – when the legs are already accumulating lactic acid!
The remainder of route is pure madness! But since me, Blue and Erich are relegated to sweeper duties, we have reasons to stall at almost every few meters of walking – we were not even running! That is just impossible to do! Even Erich himself with his injured hamstring gave up and rode the public utility motorcycle locally called “habal habal” the rest of the way. We likewise picked up a pair of runner, Reb and wifey. She is struggling, well, who is not! But hers is of a more alarming kind with signs of ITBS. We tried to encourage her for some few steps but they turn out to be too painful even for us pacers to look at. We decided it best for her to try again for some other time as this part of the route is simply too much for her. Like Erich, the habal habal proved “leg-saving” for her too.
Later as the sun is blaring full blast out of the cloud canopy, I felt faint. The good thing, the ultra-marathoner aptitude of Blue proved lifesaving. His hydration bag full of water that he shared with Erich and me kept us from seeing double and dropping on our knees. Unlike the first part where there were many stores along the way to get hydration from, this last half of continuous uphill started in an area of scant hydration options. Fortunately by 5K to go before the finish line, there was a “karinderya” where we stayed for a quite a while eating the heaven sent pancit canton. Alyna observed that I was unusually silent during our entire stay. I told her later that I was having a faint attack. Luckily, I was able to shake it off before me, Blue and Arnold accompanied Remus, the last runner, along the steepest points of this lsd to the finish line. And we survived in one piece!
Understandably as sweepers, we were dead last to arrive at Crossing Alfonso. We arrived when almost half had long gone home. It was a relief to be able to experience this unique route of road and trail combined into one exciting yet challenging long distance run with friends from the running community. It solidified our relationship with fellow runners while sharing in this sports activity that brought us so much fun and health benefits. This is one of those lsds I will consider as most memorable ever!