Lesson: Never assume.
When I first heard about the Makiling Challenge, I thought that since it was going up a mountain, it would be a trail run. Unfortunately, I had pretty much written off my trail shoes at the end of the TNF100. I didn't believe that my Adidas could handle another off road race especially one is which I was determined to do well in. Of course, I didn't let a minor issue like no shoes deter me. So, I pestered Neville to no end to get me some good North Face shoes! Thankfully, through the kindness of the team, R.O.X., and North Face, I got me a good deal on some new Rucky Chuckys! I was set to race!
Except for one minor detail. When I got to UPLB, I discovered that while the race would go up a mountain (and what a mountain is was, more on that later), it was completely on asphalt! Ok, I thought, fine, I normally keep spare shoes in the car. But in this case my spare shoe was my Adidas trail shoes because my last run was a trail run to prepare for what i thought would be a trail race! Hay yay yay. Well, I'll run in the Rucky Chuckys then.
On to race day, perfect race weather, despite the threat of rain the night before, the sizable crowd which massed at Baker Hall was greeted by clear skies and sunny weather. In fact, if anything, it looked to be a hot race!
Right of the bat, my race was off to a bad start. Since I was with alot of my friends, I had started near the back of the field. As everyone knows, starting from the back, or near the back will end up costing you time as a "bottleneck" of runners will prevent you from running your own pace.
For some reason it seemed particularly crowded in the start of this race and I had a hard time passing slower runners. It wasn't until the course started to go uphill after the bridge that the field began to build some separation and I was able to run my own pace. By this time, I was sure I had lost a bucketful of time.
Tip for the next race: I will definitely start in the middle front. Not to far forward that I will be goaded by faster runners into an unsustainable pace. But forward enough that I am with serious enough runners that I can run my own pace. I especially recommend staying ahead of the high school and grade school students in their PE uniforms who seem to be there in every race, probably because they are required by their school, they usually don't run and instead walk 3 or 4 abreast, making them very hard to pass.
The 1st 2 kms or so of uphill was a gradual slope, so while my legs felt the uphill, I was still feeling good and confident about doing well. The trees shading the route also helped alot as it really prevented the race from becoming overly hot.
The race route took us into the Boy Scouts of the Philippines complex, a place I haven't been in since I was a Boy Scout over a decade ago and we wasted 2 bottles of lighter fluid trying create a bonfire with wood which we later learn to be too wet to work!
A bit after the welcome arch of the BSP was the rotunda where the 5k runners would turn around and where the 1st water station was located. As I already had a good pace I didn't want to slow down too much so I just grabbed one of the plastic bags of water, bit it, drank a little and then followed the marshal's directions to continue on our route... straight down or should I say up to Hell!
Honest to god, the aburt change in the slope from gradual to killer took alot out of me. At first I tried to keep some semblance of my former pace, but as the mountain kept rising with no apparent end in sight, I followed the lead of the runners around me and began to walk. The slope was such that walking seemed more efficient than running because I really could not make up alot of distance running and fighting gravity at the same time!
Walking with occasional bursts of running. The uphill seemed to the Arts Camp Housing seemed to go on forever and I really felt like I was over heating. It's a good thing the front of the team jersey could be opened. By the time I reached the top, the zipper had reached the bottom!
I was so relived to reach the top, only to realize that there were runners coming from the other side of the mountain. This was not yet the turn around! We still had to make our way to the Arts Amphitheater!
Despite it not being the turn around, there was a small moment of rejoicing when I realized that there was a water station up top. The 1st one we saw since the start of the climb!
After grabbing 2 waters, one to drink and one to douse myself with. I quickly ran down, practically coasting past other runs, trying to make gravity my friend instead of my enemy. I guess this is where the superb grip of the Rucky Chuckys came to fore, as I passed many other runners who seemed unsure of themselves going down quickly, while I was sure footed with every step.
Because it was mostly downhill, I reached the turn around point, we were had to go around the amphitheater. This is where we got the 1st straw loop and some marshal mentioned that I was 72nd at this point. From the very top of the mountain, we were almost at lake level! I remember thinking to myself: "Uh Oh, no we have to climb what we ran down."
No sense delaying the inevitable, so I started to make my way up. Again utilizing my run and hike technique. I also alleviated by pain and suffering my pulling up on an imaginary rope! Haha, anything to keep me going!
I also saw my friend Euan going down to the turn around, but as he looked totally wasted and I was in no mode to do anything, we merely acknowledged each other with a glance. That's it!
The top seemed to come quickly enough. I guess it's because I go so used to it.
After getting 2 waters again, I ran down the long long uphill we climbed earlier. In fact, it was during this run down that I realized how high we had climbed, because running down seemed to take forever. In fact, I believe I was running down so fast and for so long, I felt that the soles of my feet were heating up from moving around in the shoe! In fact, there was a point I slowed down because I thought the heat/friction would burn a hole through my thin Nike socks!
Eventually, I did reach the bottom and after the trials and tribulations of the mountains, it was smooth coasting from here to the finish line. I just keep a quick but steady cadence from here and at one point even got into step with with PNP runners just for the heck of it.
Crossing the bridge I knew there was less than 1 km to go, so I decided to pick up the pace and semi sprint to the finish. Upon reaching the finish line, I saw someone I knew and forgot to push the stop button on my watch, but I am guessing I did the 10k, which was closer to 12k according to Euan's pedometer, in a little more than a minute.
So not too shabby if I must say so myself. I mean considering the elevation change, which I estimate to be around 3 and a half Mt. Apos high, and the extra 2 km, I'm pretty pleased with my time. Of course, now I'm excited to go back and beat my time next year!
Thanks to Sonny for the Pictures
Route Map c/o MACRUNNERS site.