Conquering Mt. Batolusong

Batolusong

Mount Batolusong

I contemplated on running off-road for a while, but never had the chance to actually join an event. However, last April 9, 2017, I finally had a taste of what trail running was and had a jaunt to the countryside that is San Andres, Tanay, Rizal. It was not my first out-of-town event, but the idea of combining running and mountain climbing in this one event thrilled me. I must admit that I had a few mileage under my belt when I joined, but boy did I prepare intensively to conquer Mt. Batolusong! I had to tweak my training regimen a little bit for the trail run.

Expert Support

My friend Ysa who is an experienced trail runner, who had run Mt. Batolusong once warned me that it is a challenging trail. Technical was the actual term, which meant that there will be unending ascents and steep downhills. She also gave a picturesque description of the view on top which made me wish April 9 would come sooner so I could see and experience everything she described.

Planning the Transportation Details

The organizers provided basically everything we need to know about the out-of-town event such as the map outlining the trail and hydration stations, the instructions on how to reach the event venue and even suggested cheap shuttle service for commuting participants. However, my friends and I opted to rent a car to shuttle us to and from the event. Comfort was our priority since the ride going to the event was going to take a few hours, 2 hours or so, from Sucat, Paranaque. Renting a private car was more expensive than the shuttle service, but we made the right choice. It was worth the money spent.

Meet up at McDonald’s

Pickup time at McDonald’s Taft MRT station was 11 p.m. At that hour, EDSA was abuzz with commuters waiting to get a bus or jeepney ride home or somewhere else. We were not able to indulge ourselves with hot coffee nor a hot meal as the car was already there and we needed to pick up one more passenger at a gasoline station along EDSA-Ayala. The ride going to San Andres was pleasant, albeit a little traffic somewhere in Cubao slowed us down a bit. Past the area of congestion, the ride was smooth. I was able to enjoy looking at the city lights below as it was an uphill ride up to San Andres.

Hello Drizzle!

It started to drizzle when we left Pasay City and still drizzling when we arrived around 1 a.m. at San Andres Barangay Hall where the organizers set up their command center and the Start and Finish lines. By the time we arrived at the venue, the 80k runners just kicked off. We were not able to see them off though.

Catching Some Rest

There were no McDo, Jollibee or convenience stores in the vicinity of the venue so we settled to warm and fill our tummies with meals sold from a nearby sari-sari store. Once we had our fill, we rested inside the car and tried to get a brief shut-eye before we toe in the starting line. I wasn’t able to sleep so as my other companions except Rose who slept soundly as if she was in her own bed. I sat beside Rose inside the car and listened to the sound of pouring rain eyes closed but sleep was just so elusive at that time. The rain calmed me though and made me feel relaxed despite my lack of sleep.

Here Comes The Rain

Before Gun Start

The drizzle became a downpour by the time the 50k runners kicked off at 3 a.m. and the 25k runners at 5 a.m. Rose and I prayed the rain will stop by 6 a.m. in time for our kick off. We signed up for the 12k run. We were worried that we would trip along the trail since we did not bring any head lamps to light our way as we expected it will be sunrise by 6 a.m. Our anxiety vanished when the rain stopped and the sun started to show.

The Race

Base Camp at the Foot of Mount Batolusong

We toed in the starting line at exactly 6 a.m. and started to run at first on a relatively smooth terrain, a bit graveled, coarser as we ran farther. By about 500 meters from the starting line, the terrain started to change. We came across a very shallow and rocky stream, then we started our ascent.

Stream of Water

There were a variety of trees and shrubs along the trail where it became rockier. The mud started to stick to my shoes, which were not really trail shoes. I was wearing my trusted on-road running shoes hoping they were going to provide enough traction to keep me from slipping. I managed to trek the muddy terrain with my feet getting heavier every step as the mud accumulated under my shoes.

Technical Ascent

The technical Ascent

So this was “technical” ascent meant. I felt I would gain wings when I reached the summit, our turn about point. The trek uphill seemed endless and heading towards the sky as it was very inclined. My chin and knee would almost touch every step up. After a kilometer or two of the killer ascent, we could already see a sea of clouds around us.

Sea of Clouds

Foggy Trail

We were not even at the top yet, but we could already see clouds and lush greens around us. This made me forget how arduous the climb was! I couldn’t help myself, but take a quick selfie to capture the beauty of the nature. By this time, some runners had started their descent. Not quite sure if they were from the 80k or 50k pack of runners who ran ahead of us earlier. A few more hilly climbs and near missteps and falls, we got to a place where there was a rock formation about 10 or 12 feet high.

Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock

Rose and I went up to the top of the rock and had our selfies there. 🙂 I think everyone who passed by this rock formation had a selfie or two before continuing to run ahead. Once we were satisfied with our selfies, we continued to walk up a few meters where we finally found a breezy grassland. We ran further and we reached the hydration station where we ate biko, Jelly Ace, and chocolates, and drank water. Before we headed off and continued to run toward the turn about point which is the summit, we stuffed our pockets with jelly and chocolates and refilled our hydration packs.

Welcome Mr. Sun!

I was able to finally properly run through the grassy field hoping to reach the top quickly. The sun was starting to scorch my neck. A runner descending from the hill encouraged us to tread on as the turn about point was just about a kilometer away. It was not the hill that we were seeing, but behind that hill! Okay, we’ve gone this far, there is no turning back, so we foot slogged our way to the next hill. It seemed that the trail kept on changing and it was never the same.

Slippery Trails

The trail now became more slippery, narrower, and still muddy even if the rain had stopped hours ago and the sun was scorching. A few meters away, the trail became very rocky that we had to climb on boulders and hold on to anything that we can support ourselves to keep us from slipping and falling. We passed by bamboo trees and trekked on narrow trails with head-high shrubs.

Alone and Scared

By the time, I passed through this trail, I was all alone and fear crept as I slowly and carefully ran through the thick and tall grass and shrubs. I was afraid a snake would pop out any minute. Past this trail, we reached the steepest part and probably the most rocky and slippery. We had to yield to runners descending as the trail was also very narrow with sharp rocks. Nothing much to hold on to but the boulders or any abutting root you could find.

To the Summit

About 20 meters from that area, we started to climb to the top, the summit, the turn about point. I forgot how tired I was when I realized that we were surrounded by mountains. The thick fog prevented us to see the grandeur of the place, but the view was breathtaking nevertheless.

Mount Batolusong Summit

Rose and I spent a few minutes at the summit desperately wanting to take a picture of us there. Unfortunately, our cellphones were all dead, so we just enjoyed the view before we started our descent back to where we started. The cut-off time for the 12k trail run was 4 hours. The ascent took us about 2 hours.

Time to Descend

The run downhill was technical, but we made the downhill run faster than we did our ascent. I told Rose we needed to be mindful of the time lest we will miss the cut-off time. I reckoned we had made lots of selfies and carried enough memories with us of the breathtaking view of the mountains and the lush scenery around us, it was time to beat the clock. Aided by the momentum going downhill and with less stopovers, we ran strong and finished in less than 4 hours. Rose finished about 5 minutes ahead of me.

Finish Line

With My Trail Buddy

I reached the finish line with a little bruise on my left knee when I lost my footing on a rock and slipped. Except for that very “small” accident, I was okay. I was just hungry as our last meal was about 8 hours or so ago. Food and drink awaited us at the finisher’s line. I grabbed my share before I got my medal and finisher’s shirt making sure I had food and drink! Refueling and re-hydrating were my priority when I finished.

I Survived!!!

Mt. Batolusong probably was a technically difficult trail for a newbie trail runner like me, but it was just my first time, and I survived it. Definitely, this will not be my last, but more trail runs to come! Happy trail running!

About Penchie Limbo:

I am a type 2 diabetic.  I run to keep my blood sugars in good control in conjunction with diet and medical regimen.  The running bug got me in 2010. Since I laced up my running shoes, I’ve been an on-road runner, albeit with several months of hiatus in the last 2 years.  After almost 7 years of on-road racing, like any other runner, I want to take my running into another level by going off road.  I would like to see myself doing ultra marathons, both on and off road, in the future.  Running is my lifestyle.  I am a runner and a diabetes warrior.

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Super Veteran Runners

I have called myself a runner since I first ran my first 3k in April 2010.  Since then, I have run distances longer than 3k.  In fact, I ran my first half marathon (21k) barely 4 months since I started running.  Since my half marathon debut, whenever I join a race, I would always sign up for a half marathon or longer distances.

 

More than 5 years since I took up running (with some hiatus in between), I have encountered and befriended runners, males and females, in all skills and levels.  However, what I am most impressed with are those seasoned runners, the super veteran runners, those runners aged more than 50 years old or those who are old enough to be my dad or grandpa, who run faster and stronger than me.  Every time I get sped by a super veteran runner in a race, I would always feel challenged and secretly wish that I would grow old to be a strong runner as they are when I get to be in their age.

In many races, those who took a podium finish are usually younger runners, either in their 20s or 30s.  I have yet to see a super veteran runner take the podium and acknowledged in a race when in fact some of these super veteran runners run stronger and faster than the younger ones, even the well trained ones.

One particular runner that I really look up to and admire for his discipline and dedication to running is Mr. Sandy Oxales.  He is my “Dad” in the running community, and he runs 10k every day.  Impressively, he could finish a 10k race in sub-50 minutes, something that I’m still dreaming of achieving.  Younger runners eat his dust when he runs a half marathon in an amazing sub-2:30!  How cool is that for a 66-year-old!

dad

Sandy Oxales in action!

In the Milo Marathon Finals, the most prestigious and most awaited marathon in the country, where probably only the elite runners, the ones who met the time requirement to qualify to run in this race, I see a number of these super veteran runners joining the race.  These super veteran runners are fast and strong enough to qualify for the Milo Marathon Finals where some younger runners even fail to beat the qualifying time of 2:30 cut off for the 21k category.  During the Milo Marathon Finals or any other major running events, these super veteran runners, unfortunately, do not make a podium finish as naturally the younger and the stronger ones those who are usually more than half their age steal the podium from them with youth being an advantage in this kind of race.

 

DAd and sir gil

Dad Sandy and Sir Gil Brazil showing off their medals.

 

Hopefully, in the coming races we would see that these super veteran runners be given their spot in the podium.  I believe the organizers should also acknowledge winners, podium finishers, from the 50s and up category.  I believe that acknowledging these super veteran runners would not only challenge the young to become better and stronger runners, but also inspire the running community and prove that running is not only for the young but for everyone.

 

Dad and Gil

Never too old to run.

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Running the Half

6 months after our first 3k, we did our first half marathon...so proud to wear those medals!

6 months after our first 3k, we did our first half marathon…so proud to wear those medals!

I ran my first 3k with my friends at work who were then newbie runners just like me.  We ran at the NatGeo Earth Run just for fun.  I wasn’t really a runner.  In fact, I only trained for the 3k race my friends and I participated in about two weeks before the event.  I thought 3k was just a short distance. But I was so wrong! It was the longest 3k I’ve ever run! In between running and walking, I kept praying to God to give me the strength to cross the finish line intact.  Hardly able to catch my breath, I finished the race in more than 35 minutes.  The one who won 3rd place in that race was a lanky 12-year-old girl who clocked in 13 minutes! Wow! I could probably run that fast when I was her age! Just wishful thinking though!

I may have struggled to finish my first 3k race, but that didn’t stop me from running again. In fact, my friends and I signed up for the next race with the firm resolve to train properly this time.  True enough, we trained harder and ran more regularly than before.  A few more 3k, 5k, and 10k races, we signed up for a 21k (half marathon), about six months from our first 3k.

It was October 28, 4:15 a.m.  My friends and I were standing anxiously at the starting line waiting for the gun start at 4:30 a.m.  It was a rather cold morning, but I guess everyone was burning with excitement and that was enough to keep us all warm.  We were in the middle of the pack along a group of runners who intend to finish the race in 2 hours 30 minutes.  We were provided with a pacer to make sure we run within the pace for a 2:30 finish time.

A few minutes after we did our warm-up exercises, the countdown begins.  “Five, four, three, two, one! Good luck runners! And off we ran…excitedly but with a steady pace.  Me? I just waddled my way through the flat course in the 1st through 7th kilometers, and then comes the flyover! Argh! Am I ready for this? It was just about 2k of uphill and downhill course, but it felt I just ran a 10k! What a relief when we reached the end of the flyover! Time to catch my breath!

A few more kilometers of running on a flat course and then we’re back again on the flyover…Oh no! Here we go again! By this time, we were about 9k away from the finish line, and we were behind by 10 minutes on our target finish time.  The confidence I had at the starting line was now replaced by fears.  What if I pass out in the middle of the race? What if my legs can’t carry me anymore through the finish line? By this time, I was already alternately walking and running.  I may have ran so slow since I couldn’t find our pacer.  I was separated from the group.  I was running on my own now and I was fighting my mind not to quit.  It was this time that I stopped running with my legs and I started running with my heart.

2k away from finish line.  Almost there! But it seemed so far away! Runners who finished ahead of me were cheering me and the other runners.  Some offered water.  Some even ran along with us while encouraging us to keep on running.

500 meters away from the finish line.  I could already hear from the loud speaker bib numbers being called out announcing  those who crossed the finish line.  I could see the finish line now.  It looked so near and yet so far!  More runners were now cheering us while we approach the finish line.  I felt my knees started to wobble.  I wanted to stop, but I was so close.  Almost there.  I wanted to crawl my way through the finish line, but I need to finish strong no matter what so I continued to run though rather slowly now than my initial pace.  It was the longest 500 meters I ever ran! Finally, I reached the finish line.  Exhausted but happy, I claimed my finisher’s medal.  Now, I am a certified runner!

I clocked in 2 hours 34 minutes.  Not so bad for a newbie runner on its first half marathon!

Fast forward five years after that race…I have run a couple of 21k’s and longer distances.  I ran, stopped running, then back to running again.  I could not forget my first half marathon, the joy and pride I felt crossing that finish line.  It was all worth the effort of waking up early for a run or going for a run after work and long runs during weekends or on my rest days.

Now, after a hysterectomy and a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus type 2 (non-insulin-dependent) six months ago, I’m ready to conquer the road again.  Will I be ready for another 21k? We’ll see.

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Running Alone

I run mostly alone lately.  This morning I decided to do an early morning run. I was hoping I would be joined by someone I expected to run along with me, but he was a no-show, so I went to run by myself.

One of my favorite routes now is Coastal to CCP or even up to Km Zero if I intend to run a longer distance.  Today, I chose a shorter route, about 8k.  It was a quite gloomy morning, quite a bit downcast, the sun hidden by thick rain clouds.  It looked like it was going to rain, but it didn’t, to my relief. The air was cool and it was really quite relaxing to run in a weather like this.  The trees seemed to dance in the wind to my entertainment as I ran past them on the way to CCP.

As I slowly built up my pace, the heaviness that I felt in my heart (charing!) started to disappear.  Each step seemed to have lighten the “burden” that I was carrying.  It felt liberating.

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Once I reached CCP, I decided to deal with the ramp.  I ran up and down the ramp at least 8 times.  On the 8th time, I stopped counting and I just ran up and down until my calves and butt started to burn.  It was tiring, but worth the workout.  The heaviness in my chest completely disappeared by the nth time I ran up and down the ramp, that is why I run because running clears my mind and empties myself out of bottled up emotions.

When I felt that I had loaded up enough endorphins, I decided to run back to MOA where I would take a ride going home.  However, along the way, when I passed by another ramp, I decided to do some more hill repeats as if I hadn’t had enough of hills already though I was careful not to overdo it to prevent delayed muscle soreness or even injury.

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Yes, I wish I had run along with someone whom I can talk to while running; however, I was never really actually alone. I was with myself…and probably it was the only thing that I needed that morning to sort things out and clear my mind from nagging thoughts and empty  my heart from pent up emotions.

I will be back to run again tomorrow to do a longer run…with or without a running buddy.  And this thought came to my mind:

Running is not a lonely sport.  Sometimes some people are just lonely that is why they run to deal with the loneliness.

Well, that’s me included… I run when I feel lonely sometimes.

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Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou : The Poetry Foundation

Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou : The Poetry Foundation.

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 RU2…

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RU2…here I come.

After a long hiatus in running will I be ready for a 32k this time? Let’s see.

I’m excited to run again.

Run fast (?).  Run strong. 🙂

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What Are You Running For? I Run for Nikki

I run for a healthy and stress-free life, although I also run to support a cause. Come December 9, 2012, I run for both, but I will be supporting two causes, social and personal.

I will be running a half marathon (21k or 13 miles) at the 36th Milo Marathon Finals to help give a pair of shoes for children.  The other reason why I am running this time is for my 15-year-old niece Nikki who has leukemia.  It’s my personal initiative to raise funds for her treatment after I learned that my cousin, Nikki’s dad, was having difficulty finding funds for Nikki’s chemotherapy.

nikkinikki

Nikki already received 4 cylces of chemotherapy and will be needing 2 more to complete the treatment.  As we all know, cancer treatment does not come cheap. Chemotherapy is quite expensive and to the average income earner, one treatment could be financially draining. So how much more for 6 cycles plus other medical expenses?

I am running to help treat my niece’s leukemia. What are you running for? I will run a mile for you in exchange for whatever amount you will give for Nikki. I am knocking on your door to help me raise funds for Nikki.  Help us fight cancer for Nikki.  Any amount will be appreciated greatly.  Thank you so much for your help and may God bless you more abundantly for your generosity and kindness.

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