It's been a year since I joined the 42Km KOTM Trail Marathon in Kayapa, Nueva Vizcaya and I was back to join the 60Km Old Spanish Trail Ultra. This event was the final leg of the King of the Mountain Series, the other two being the Hardcore 100 (February) and the 42Km Trail Marathon (March). The event had been an attraction to many local and international trail runners because of its qualifying points for other international races. Not to mention the breathtaking views along the route, the challenge and degree of difficulties of the trails and the warm accommodation of the people and the event organizers as well.
I had a good experience during last year's 42Km Trail Marathon (read my previous post here) that's why I had no second thoughts in joining this year's 60Km OST Ultra. I know I had already covered most of the route and it's just too good to always come back and run here. Having recuperated for quite a long time from my CM50 race last November, I guess this is a good follow-up race.
The skies were overcast when we arrived at Kayapa on Friday, I came with Romy and H1 lady champ Mia Constantino. We were met by the RD and assisted us in every way until we get into our lodging house (thanks Mia for accommodating us). It is evident that a downpour is prevalent in the area. A short sleep under an afternoon rain followed after a hearty lunch at the famous Boulevard Inn. The whole place was cold. At 3:00pm we were claiming our respective bib numbers, shirts and essentials at the briefing located at the school covered court. This also served as the finish line of the event.
|RD Jonel discussing the race details.|
In the early morning the following day, after a simple meal of hot noodles, bread and sausages, we made our way to the starting line. And oh boy, the water was ice-cold when I did my morning bath, but just good enough to warm my body before the grind. After a series of picture taking, a short prayer, and reminder we were sent off.
01h51m23s to Bondao. As a usual strategy, staying behind the stronger runners and letting them take the lead kept me in good form, avoiding to jackrabbit that would eventually lead me to disaster. I mostly walked the first 10km leading to Bondao Aid Station together the with usual suspects, Chito, RocketBong, Dindo and Dennis as we climbed the muddy trails of Talecabcab. It was only at the flat portion of Indupit where I started to run. Feeling still fresh, the run was kinda relaxed one until I reached Bondao.
01h08m15s to Domolpos Saddle. Caution is in the highest priority as we traversed the single-track trail from Bondao to Domolpos, one false move and you'll be rolling down hundred of feet below the deep ravine on one side. I made it to Ansipsip foot trails and caught on Romy who was slowly making his way down. We ran for a short while until I eventually left him. The route inside the village is pretty much the same as with my previous race only that it is in a reversed order. I could still remember the ins and outs that's why I made it to Domolpos Saddle without losing a turn. I caught Mia resting here complaining with an issue on her nutrition. From her eyes I could see that disaster is about to happen. After a short stay with her, she proceeded and left us at the saddle.
|The trail on the right is the way going up Mount Ugu.|
01h27m32s to Mount Ugo Summit. Trekking up the summit is where one could marvel the beauty of the place with a 360-degree view of the Cordillera mountains. The aroma of pine trees beside you is an added bonus. The magnificent view of Ambuklao dam and Baguio could be seen whenever there's a clearing. I had difficulty assaulting this portion called terminator pass because of the thin air, my brave soul is not adept to this kind of surrounding, but strategies made wonders. Climb as I did, I made it to the top and had a short photo-ops with Dindo and Dennis who came shortly after me. It was a brief stay but it mattered most.
|A view of Baguio at the left of the photo.|
29m12s back to Domolpos. Going down from the summit via a short mossy forest lead us back to the route going down Domolpos saddle. Midway down is the junction that separates assaulting runners from those heading back. The trail going down is more difficult due to its incline, I had my taste of accident when I slipped and gushed my three fingers from the bushes. Blood oozed-out but its not that serious to cause a panic. Together with Romy I made it to the saddle and refilled my bladder. Suddenly Mia came down from the summit, this one tough lady made it through with her ordeal and proceeded into the race. Together, we made our way towards the old Spanish trail.
|The other side of Mount Ugo where runners trek down.|
01h36m49s to Kayapa East Market. The Domolpos saddle to Kayapa East market route, for me, was the most scenic of the entire route. The view of rice paddies in terraces is simply amazing, one could only fathom how do people here work with passion and dedication. The pine trees when viewed from an angle that lined each mountainside is greater than a masterpiece of Picasso. Add those vintage hanging bridges, and pine tree leaves that served as green carpet and you could feel you're inside the movies.
|Picturesque view of the old spanish trail.|
Given the beauty of the course, this stretch, if not, was the most difficult portion of the OST category. The long, undulating terrain seems leads to nowhere. They say it's only 11km but one could feel it's more than double.
39m41s at Kayapa East Market. This aid station also served as the first drop bag station of the race. Here, we were treated to a sumptuous meal of chicken tinola where I had two servings, and bottomless servings of ice cold water and gatorade. Bananas, cup noodles and everything patiently waits at the table top. I stayed and rest here for a long while. Runners came and go while I enjoyed my accommodation.
01h26m04s to Amelong Labeng. As we started our hike to Amelong Labeng, 2km away from Kayapa East Market, the sun is now shining its might. We don't have any resolve but to brave it through slow jog until we reached the assault portion. Although it's hard to climb the stretch towards Amelong Labeng, finding relief under the pine trees was an added advantage. I refilled at the manless aid station before proceeding to the tower.
|Unlimited views of the mountains where we came from.|
02h18m47s to Castillo Village. I was alone running this section of rough road under a drizzle and deafening sound of cracking thunderstorm. I felt I was just a shade from them. The flash of lightning from just above me was a terrifying sight. Farther down after the two towers I caught on Romy and Mia and together we ran going down to Castillo Village, but by this time we were under the scorching heat of the sun. Some more kilometers and we were braving a heavy downpour. This stretch tested our sanity as we outwit the ever changing weather condition until we reached the next aid station. It was from here where Romy and I ran together for almost the remainder of the course. I have never seen Mia after this station, she went on to finish the 100Km event. Congrats Mia. :)
|Amelong Labeng. Can you spot the two towers?|
21m38s at Castillo Village. Here, I managed to change my socks and running gear, which I badly needed to because I'm soaking wet. I had the opportunity also to munch on my fruits, oranges and apple, from my drop bag. The rest and replenishment somewhat eased the starvation.
01h59m20s to Dayap. I went on under the heavy rains and sweeping cold air. The next portion just after the aid station was another assault to Buaca lake before going down a steep ravine towards the next aid station. I hardly enjoyed the route due to the heavy fog that engulfed the surrounding. We just followed the mangled trails until we made it to Dayap.
It was in Dayap where we found ourselves inside one of the classrooms sipping coffee for the much needed rest. Just outside are cold wind sweeping through each one of us, a scene reminiscent of those at the movies where climbers re-heat themselves inside a tent or base camps. It's getting close to darkness so we hurriedly fixed ourselves before the final push.
01h02m17s to Finish Line. This section is mainly of concrete road going down to Kayapa Town. We proceeded on a relaxed pace before speeding down after reaching the main highway. I shifted on my 4 km per minute pace and relied on gravity to pull me down with Romy tailing me from behind, tough guy, eh. I kept on going and never looked back to somewhat finish with a decent time. I made it in 14h21m17s (official). Results here.
Overall, the hosting of the race was just perfect for trail-loving (ultra) runners. Simple and laid-back. The trails was just too good to run with amidst the degree of difficulties. The beauty of the surrounding is awesome that one, nature-loving soul will find endearment. The place and the people are simply adorable.
I'll prepare myself sooner and come back again in Kayapa for the 100km event next year. The challenge of KOTM is irresistible, that after doing the 42km and the 60Km, I felt I needed an upgrade. Training starts immediately for 100km is a daunting task. I hope to see you again at the starting line.
I'm leaving you with some of the photos from the race. Special shout-out to Dindo Diaz and Jaylord Ballao. The above photos are panoramic in nature hence the quality.