Monday, April 29, 2013

Merrell Adventure Run 2013

Having received a text message from a fellow climber and a friend last March of this year, I learned about Merrell Adventure Run happening in April. I was hesitant at first since I wasn’t expecting any concrete climb schedule which I could use as training for such race, yet eventually, I was convinced. Besides, in the previous year, I was unfortunate  to register in the same annual event. And perhaps, having bought a new pair of trekking shoes of my favorite brand, I was encouraged to say “Yes” to the event. I could wait no more! I wanted to wear it and try it on the trails the soonest as the next sure climb I am expecting would only be in August of this year. (Yes, small things like that! LOL) So, there!  I told myself it’s time to make joining a trail run happen. Trail running? I figured it’s one of my targets in my “not so solid, unwritten bucket list.”

Details of the Race
I may be into mountaineering, and at times, I participate in some running events in the city (though seldom), yet being a newbie to this kind of race still leaves me with an incomplete idea of it. Somehow, I may be aware of something about it. But as they say, “you will never know, until you try and see it for yourself”.

Only upon doing this post did I get the idea to google it. And so Mr. Wiki says, “Trail running is a sport which consists of running and hiking over trails. It differs from road running and track running in that generally takes place on hiking trails, often in mountainous terrain, where there can be much larger ascends and descends.”

Oh yes, I was joining an event that may totally surprise me.

I registered for the 21K category. Thinking twice, at first, but still I had to stand for it and were bound to do it.

I am not a super avid fan of running, but admittedly, before entering into various mountaineering activities, I first saw myself in running.  And with so much hype of many organized race events, I participated few of them.  I started with 5k, followed by various 10K’s, and it has always been a 10K for me. So I thought, it would be a nice idea to challenge myself with a 21k… and yes, 21k in a trail running event.

Preparing for the 21K

How did I prepare for the trail run? I got my final decision to register in the event on the last week of March leaving me with only three weeks to prepare.  My recent climb was Mt. Pulag via Ambangeg trail. As mentioned, all my tentative climb schedules for April (due to busy work schedule), remained tentative at the last minute, so everything was postponed. I had no choice but to run and run. I dragged myself to have a work out twice a week (after my "8-to-5" job). The great thing was, our office is only at Bonifacio Global City, one of the popular venues for running events, and it was easy to go running around the High Streets’ small loop. I set additional rounds every week prior to the event.  

The Essentials of the Trail Running

What did I bring during the race event? From a mountaineer’s perspective, I was sure it's like doing a dayhike. So I figured below essentials are the things that I must bring with me, and this get up helped a lot!

>  Hydration pack (also, as required by Merrell, the organizer) – As I don’t have my own hydration bottle just like what the runners normally have,  so I brought my 1 liter-Nalgene and 2 packs of Extra Joss to energize me). By the way, the organizer themselves preferred to bring the participant’s own trail water because plastic cups in the refilling stations were intentionally not available to avoid littering which could break the Leave No Trace (LNT) rule. 

>  Trail food - I brought some biscuits.

>  Head light ((also, as required by Merrell, the organizer) – I brought my Energizer head lamp. However, in the actual race, we didn’t use this as the call time for 21k runners was 5:30am and it seemed that the morning light was already scattered by that time. Anyway, it's an automatic must-have for any dayhike.

> Med kit – Although medics are designated to many stations, I still bring my personal kit which includes liniment/balm, beta dine, alcohol, and paracetamol  in case of emergency).

> Belt bag/Sling bag – A bag which I used to contain all the things mentioned above. Based on this trail run experience, an assault pack with a hydration pack is better and is easier to bring. Small backpack rather than belt bag is even better for a convenient run

> Daypack – which I used to store my things such as clothes after the race and other important personal things.  Baggage counters were properly provided. 

On the Day of Race

Merrell has provided shuttles in Trinoma and BGC as well as jeepney  in SM Masinag which transported us to the venue (with additional cost, of course, I paid Php300 for it). At 4:30am or earlier, participants were there already, hence, giving  enough time to deposit things in the baggage counters, make chit chats with friends (my friend, Bev Jamlig, also joined the race and registered for a 5K) and do some warm ups. The Gun starts for 5k and 10k, just like any other marathon, were 5:45am and 6am, respectively. Of course, for 21k, it was the earliest, 5:30am. Everybody seemed to be excited as we, the 21k runners, waited for the start of the race.

From the hit of gun at exactly 5: 30am to the first 6K portion of the race, everything seemed to happen rapidly. It was a descending trail that everyone had lots of their energy to run as fast as they can. The only thing that temporarily created stops and traffic to the race was, first: during the portions that the trail is very steep with a very dusty, loose soil. Yet it never became a hindrance to the runners as they strive to descend safely yet continuously run fast. Secondly, the obstacle course of the trail run included various river crossings that eventually became sort of muddy as many runners cross on it. It was very risky stepping on the slippery, mossy the rocks. Although one should be trying himself to run fast, more focus is needed, otherwise, he can easily slide on it. The third one is the portion where you would be crawling in muds under a man-made bamboo obstacle. Everyone had no choice but to undergo  such and enjoy the thrill of the trail! By the way, though I am used to walking at different kinds of trails (except the alpine one, of course), I preferred to slow down whenever necessary or not being reckless enough to avoid injury.

Afterwards, several long ascents followed. Most of us could not even sustain the running. Most of the time, I just walked. Yes, it felt like I was doing an assault on a Mt. Balagbag dayhike. The wide trails are also similar on the first part of trails to Mt. Tapulao in Zambales.  There were moments of descending but due to long time of earlier ascents, I was tired enough to resume running.  Majority of my time was spent in hiking. I met my friend, Rose de Leon (the one who texted me to join in this run), as she stopped in a sari-sari store. From that point, we were trekking while having some chit chats (what a great time and place to exchange ideas while finishing up with the run, hehe, at least we were surprised we almost trekked few kilometers more without too much minding the long hours of trek).

More assault ahead!

Two of the last obstacles were taking the muddy rice fields and there were watchers so that no one would try to cheat and instead walk on the rice paddy.  It was only quick. But the mud’s level was below my knee and it was really hard to walk on it that it was so funny of me stumbling twice. The secret to continuously walking on it and not heavily get the shoes deepened is to walk just lightly, not making every step stay longer on the mud. 

I  ran. I trekked. I crossed the river. I crawled in the muddy trail. And I soaked... soaked myself  in the rice field???  Photo credit: Thumbie O. Remigio

And the last one was a not-so-narrow trail with bamboo hurdles.

Passing through a residential barangay and more grassland under an extreme heat of the sun, we finally went through a final assault. 

Rose De Leon and behind her was me while hitting the finish line
Photo credit: MangHusi PhotoShop

Few more steps and we ran to the finish line with staff welcoming us and putting medals on us. It felt so good to finish my first ever 21k race, safe and strong!

We grabbed our freebies and did some wash up.

Few Notes from a First Timer Like Me

I have realized that to be able to perform better in this race, enough preparation is needed. In my opinion, mere running practice is good yet having the trail runs designed with uphill and downhill as well as with various obstacles, I believe, a climb (a dayhike at least) is a helpful preparation and could be a great advantage. One should prepare to endure the lengthy trail. Warm up is certainly a must. Non-preparation for this can only lead you to unusual muscle pains and cramps. And worse, not being able to finish the race.

It isn't like mountain climbing where one can extend the “take 5” rest as time is everything in this race. Your only goal is to finish the soonest time possible. Also, you can only take pictures quickly yet you can feel and enjoy the views as you do the running and hiking.

On the practical side, I will ensure next time that I wear proper gears to protect myself against the extreme heat of the sun. But hey! there’s another way, I must increase my pace so that I  would be able to finish early! And this is definitely a major challenge.

Whether you do trail running for fun or for any specific reason, it is truly a healthy activity and indeed, a test of discipline, endurance, and perseverance.  For the competitive ones, it also encourages a lot to do more and provides rooms for a passionate heart to achieve their targets and dreams.

Photo taken by: MangHusi PhotoShop

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