The day before the race, Romy, Thumbie and I set on a journey to Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya via the backdoor route, Aritao. The idea is to take the Nueva Ecija section since this route yields to a shorter distance and climbs as against Baguio via Ambuklao Road. Kayapa, the venue of the race is situated some 265 kilometer from Manila in Region 2. I was upbeat about the trip since it was my first time to travel and visit Nueva Vizcaya.
After setting foot to Kayapa shortly after lunchtime, we were greeted by Jonel, the RD of the race and assisted us to our lodging inn. There were only a few of us participants in the venue as some were just starting to arrive. Kayapa is a quaint and silent town with a population of 21,000 people. The locals are hospitable and easy to go with. After a brief rest, we headed back to the town hall for the race briefing at 3pm. This time the town hall was filled with people, participants and local folks, who witnessed the race briefing. The acquisition of race bibs followed shortly after the talks. The three of us have had some walk around town and bought race essentials before we headed back to the inn for another rest. The company of Jon, Jael, and Don were already at the inn and we had a good chat. Our trip from Manila went smoothly that I didn't feel wasted from my driving. During dinner, we ate at a famous restaurant in town, with Chito and Raquel. The food were cheaper and we had a blast. After a couple of hours, it was lights-out for us.
At 3am, each and everyone simultaneously woke up and prepare for the morning rituals. I still managed to have a quick bath before eating and changing clothes. Jon prepared brewed coffee while the three of us snacked on oatmeals, bananas, bread, coffee and noodles. In an hour we were ready and about to go to the starting line. I'm quite nervous but excited since it is my first time to climb a mountain. And I'll be doing it through running. But the anxiety went away shortly after I sat foot on the starting line with runner-friends. After a brief speech, followed by the singing of the national anthem and a short prayer, picture taking followed. I went back to the inn and took my snickers which I forgot, that was a short warm-up jog though. When I returned to the starting line, the gun was fired, and I was the very last runner to leave.
The first 5km was an uphill climb on a concrete pavement and I just walked the most part of it. This strategy gave me a room for recovery on the latter part of the race. My program is to finish the race in 8hours, anytime more than that and I will be in trouble. I will be driving back to Manila after the race. It took me 52m17s to clear this stretch before entering the trail section. I was still assessing myself up to this point as I walked Pangawan trail through the mossy forest. After the steep climb I was able to run when the route leveled. Chito and Sir Jovie were my lead runners. I was amazed by how Sir Jovie run the trail, he was graceful, that his trekking poles seem to be his balancer. While I relied on my agility to negotiate the tricky trail, I tailed him most of the time until we reached Indupit junction the Ansipsip. After a short pit stop, he was nowhere in sight. After two more kilometers I reached Bondao water station in 02h20m47s. After refilling and picture taking, I proceeded and followed the trail. This time I was running and cruising. There were gates along the way and the ribbon markings were scarce. The mist that came with the wind added some tricks. This time the runners were circling the mountain on their way to the top, wall on the left and cliff at the right. One false move and one will fall down hundreds of feet below.
After 03h14m26s on the mountain I reached the Domolpos water station. This time Chito and Sir Jovie were behind me after loosing a turn before the Ansipsip waiting shed. In my projection, they lost some 10mins along the way. After eating and a brief rest, I prepared myself for the long grind, summiting Mount Ugo. According to the marshall six lead runners passed the water station on their way down to the finish line. Three others were on their way down, one of them a female, when I left the water station. I passed through the scenic route overlooking the Domolpos Village and in the company of pine trees on our left and right. Pine cones were scattered along the trail and the scent was truly magical. After a long while I reached Bacuyan junction and the marshall directed me towards the summit, a steep ascent of more than 1 kilometer. He said it will take more than 30 minutes of slow walk to the summit.
"Few succeed because they are destined to, but many succeed because they are determined to." Author Unknown
It took me 04h28m42s to reach the summit of Mount Ugo, 2,150 masl. I was still fine and strong after that long trek and I was confident I still have the strength to negotiate the way back to the finish line in a decent time. I am stronger in running downhill than doing the uphills. After meeting Isko and had my picture taken at the summit, I prepared myself for the final stretch. It took me more than 15 minutes at the summit.
Shortly after, I was trekking downhill with Chito, Sir Jovie and Gay. The route from the summit was steep, that we went shadowing the lead of Sir Jovie. On the right is a cliff that should be taken seriously. We were on our second wind as we were cruising the downhill portion. During the climb from Domolpos water station it took me 01h14m15s to reach the summit but descending from the summit to Domolpos water station was just 33m02s, we were running fast. After refilling and huddling, I went ahead and proceeded downwards. I passed the Domolpos Village and was awed with the serenity of the place. There were wild boars, horses and cow grazing on the cliffside of the mountain. The community was so peaceful. I met Reno, a 10 year old boy playing with his friends at the church front. After the village was a short climb back to the Domolpos junction. From there I was on my own until the Bondao water station passing through Ansipsip waiting shed. I just followed the ribbon markings and was lucky to find the way back without getting lost. I think I have this homing device in me. At 06h21m12s I was at the Bondao water station, 12 km before the finish line.
It was about high noon, so I decided to eat at Bondao and refilled my bladder for the rest of the way. Shortly after, I left and proceeded to Talecabcab trail via Indupit junction, a long, steep downhill stretch. With the sound of the birds and the swishing of the winds that surround me, I ran downhill and followed again the trail and ribbon markings, crossing gates and sometimes having short walks to feel the nature surrounding me. After 30m45s I was at the Talecabcab water station, the last pit stop of the race. After a short talk with the marshall, I was directed on the way back to the finish line, a combination of sloping concrete pavement and rough road. At this long stretch I crossed streams and was with the community. People were busy tending their crops and children playing along the road. And there were houses too. Vehicles were parked along the road and so are the crops waiting to be loaded onto it. Feeling stronger at this part, I ran the whole downhill stretch through the finish line. After 51m04s from Talecabcab water station, I crossed the finish line. See the results here.
Overall, summiting Mount Ugo was an exceptional experience. An extraordinary feat for an average runner like me. Jonel and the Frontrunner team did a great job by hosting this inaugural Mount Ugo Trail Marathon. It took me 07h43m01s of running, walking, climbing and replenishment to finish the race including pit stops, rest, contemplation and picture taking. I will be back to join again the next edition, and God willing, be able to shed-off some time. I usually run a marathon in less than 4 hours but it took me close to 8 hours to finish this one, but I felt stronger after finishing this event. I was still on runners high even after reaching home 10 hours after. Only after the next day when I felt the soreness in my quads that lasted for days. The pain eventually gone out after a two-hour recovery run in the province on Holy Thursday. Now, I'm back and eager.
I'm leaving you here with some of the photos I took during the race. Enjoy!