Last weekend, I joined my second trail race for the year. I really wasn't planning to join an event that weekend. My original plan was to rest, but then Don offered me a 21km race kit to the Benguet Gold Rush which was to be held in Itogon, Benguet. At first, I declined because it was kind of a late notice. But with some convincing and a little help from him to get nice accommodations, I gave in. By Saturday morning, I was back in my favorite place in the North.
The race was held on Sunday morning with the starting line at Ampucao Elementary School, which is also the registration and briefing venue whenever one would go on a climb up Mt. Ulap. Oh yes, Mt. Ulap covered the most part of the race route which was also one of the reasons I joined. The first time I climbed Mt. Ulap, which you can read about here, there was no clearing. Yes, I enjoyed it but I didn't get the full experience. So I figured that it was high time for me to really see what it had to offer. And it was uh-mazing! But I'm getting ahead of myself, so let's get back to the race.
The race started at 5am for both 21km and 50km runners. We took the uphill road going to Mt. Kotkot. The 50km runners had to take the Mt. Kotkot trail first but for us, 21km runners, we took a U-turn going back to Ampucao Elementary School and then took the road going to the Mt. Ulap jump-off.
Basically, it was the same exact trail that we took when Don and I climbed Mt. Ulap. Except that this time, I was on a trail run. And there was a cut-off of seven hours. Despite being in a race, I couldn't resist taking photos along the way because the sights were just too beautiful.
After a few slips and slides, I managed to reach the aid station and U-turn point at the Sta. Fe exit in three and a half hours. I took a few minutes break there to replenish my energy, although I couldn't bring myself to eat a lot. I remember eating a banana and two pieces of jelly, and that's it. After that I was ready to take on the rest of the race. Or not.
The next hour and so was hellish for me. We had to take the reverse route, which was so steep that it was painful for my legs. Also, it was so cold and the air was too thin that I was running out of breath. I had to take lots of breaks while climbing those steep steps going back to Mt. Ulap, just so I could catch my breath.
When I reach the part where the elevations were a bit more forgiving, I relaxed a little and even managed to actually run. I experienced cramps when I got to the summit. From that point, the rest of the race was a blur. All I could think of was being able to finish within the cut-off. I experienced cramps again when I was within the last 4km. That was when I sat down and felt my right leg sort-of lock. I couldn't get up and I was at the verge of crying. With some help from a fellow runner and from a race marshal, I managed to get back on my feet. From there, I ran-walked my way back to Ampucao Elementary School where the finish line was. I was already way past the cut-off by then, but I wanted nothing more than just to finish so I can finally rest.
Upon reaching the finish line, I was told by the race director that they extended the cut-off by an hour and then he handed me my medal. I felt so relieved.
Photo Credits: Don of Active Pinas
Overall, this was the toughest and most challenging trail race I've joined because of the steep elevations and the thin air with the high altitude. But when it comes to the views, this race also wins hands down. I don't think I can ever get over how beautiful it is on top of Mt. Ulap.
At this point, I would like to thank some people. Thank you to Team Pinikpikan ("my team away from home" daw as per Jordan) for the company and for accommodating me this weekend. Special mention to Alwin for pacing me earlier in the race, to Laiza for pacing me for the most part, and to Russell for helping me when I was having leg cramps. Also thank you to Rain, 50km runner, for giving me liniment to help relieve the cramps and for the salt and Pocari sweat. Last but not the least, thank you to Don for the race kit, for the awesome photos, and for everything else.
Than you to sir Stephen and the rest of Team Malaya for the great race experience. Kudos to all the runners, especially to the 50km finishers, for being able to conquer such a challenging race!
rank: 39th out of 54 runners overall, 10th out of 21 female
official time: 7:31:25