20 minutes past 3 in the on a stormy Sunday morning, and I am already running in muddy flooded trails with water levels ranging from ankle level to knee level. Tall grass cover each side of the trail and the only part of the route you see is what can be illuminated by the headlamp you carry.
Initially, you run with a group but as you run faster, you begin to overtake other runners and the next thing you know, you are alone in the trail. You hear frogs in the background and the sound of your feet on the water. You occassionally encounter broken branches covering the trail and some steep inclines and slippery downhill routes. Isn’t this stuff for horror movies? That was my Nuvali Trail Challenge 2013 experience in a nutshell.
I had no plans of doing it this year but Nuvali trail challenge is special to me as the 1st one was my 1st ultramarathon experience. It was a great experience so I did it again last year after recovering from a sprained ankle. This year however, I decided to stick to my training plan for the Milo Marathon which does not include a 50+K run so Nuvali Trail Challenge was no longer on my list.
My training program says 30K long run and 30K is the other distance in the Trail Challenge so it made me re-consider joining the 30K as I will not be able to do a 30K long run on my own or with a group of people. One week before the trail run, a friend posted this on facebook:
Last day to register is 25 June which gave me a lot of time to do so. So I did register. My trail running shoes (heavy, gives me blisters everytime) is now in my room in the province so I have no trail running shoes to use. I contemplated on buying one but decided to just use one of my running shoes as some people survived the run last year on their ordinary running shoes anyway.
Since the run was a last minute thing, I was not able to convince friends to join me hence no free ride to Nuvali. Good thing I have family living there. A cousin lives in Sta. Rosa Village just otside Nuvali and another cousin lives in Nuvali. So I sent them messages and got positive replies from both.
That was it. Logistics done, I bought supplies and I am ready for the 30K trail run. My plan was to finish in 4 hours or less. I intended to announce it on Facebook as it always works for me.
Saturday morning, news typhoon Gorio hitting Manila went out. It was just signal number 1 but a typhoon is still a typhoon. I was praying for a fine weather but when I got to Sta. Rosa, it started to rain and it never stopped. I got messages from friends asking if the run will still push through. Midnight I checked with the race organizer and he says it was a go so I started dressing up for the race and was in the starting area around 2:30.
“Just follow the trail ahead of you and look for the ribbons. I hope they’re still there.” Those were the instructions of the organizer before we started the race. It was muddy, the route was flooded and it was very very dark! So I just followed the trail as instructed and looked for that ribbon everytime there is a fork in the trail.
I just kept running and running until I was alone in the trail. I kept up with a group of runners and ran with them for a while. I had little chat with Jonathan, an Aussie for a while then eventually overtook him. An Aussie guy was in the top 3 (if not the 1st place) of the same distance the previous year so I was feeling a little confident when I overtook Jonathan and made sure he would never catch up on me. I felt like I was in the top 3 but then saw a couple of people already on their way back as I was approaching the turnaround point.
So I reached the turning point of the route and I ran back as fast as I could hoping to outrun the ones who are ahead it me. People cheered when they see me. People on the last aide station informed me that I was the 5th person to pass on the way to the finish line. That time I was feeling cramps on both legs but I tried as much as possible to run whenever I can.
The final stretch of the route became a river. Well most of the route has water but the final stretch had a lot of water and where your foot lands was very unpredictable. I usually slow down on unsure parts of the route as I am very careful not to twist my ankle or get injured as this was preparation for the Milo marathon.
Ahead of me, I saw one runner. I wanted to outrun him but it was just difficult and knowing that I am behind him, he sprinted when he reached the paved part of the route. So I was thinking – let him be he’s 4th place anyway. So I enjoyed the water a bit then ran to the finish line.
“He will be the first one to get the finisher’s medal.” This was what I heard fro Jonel, the race organizer when I reached the finish line. What?! That guy before me was 3rd finisher?! Yeah I was almost a podium finisher by a matter of seconds. But yeah it was just a long run anyway and I finished in 3 hours and 26 minutes according to my Garmin uninjured.
It was a difficult race and I am proud to finish strong!