Monday, June 20, 2011

Race Review: My Merrell Adventure Run Experience

June 18, 2011
The 2nd Merrell Adventure Run
Timberland Heights, San Mateo, Rizal

At around 3:00am yesterday, protecting ourselves from a little bit of rain shower, my wife  (you can read her version of this event here) and I left home and boarded a bus that will take us to Batasan, Commonwealth in Quezon City. There, we took a cab which brought us to Timberland Heights, San Mateo Rizal. This was the venue of the 2nd Merrell Adventure Run, one of the most awaited trail running race of outdoor enthusiasts and both leisure and competitive seasoned runners in Metro Manila. According to Merrell people, this is by far the most challenging course they have organized.

On our way up to the venue, cars started to pile up as we navigated our way up the steep hills of San Mateo, Rizal. We arrived at the race course at exactly 5:30am, 15 minutes before the gun start for the 21km racers.

I had some trail running experiences in the past but this would be my first ever trail race in a course and terrain I am not familiar with. Having some running experience in both flats and trails, I was a bit confident I can finish a 10km run but my wife (who was worried about my safety given that I was recently diagnosed with diabetes) asked me to register two weeks ago for the 5km race instead.

As we toured ourselves around, we were greeted by familiar faces and friends from Merrell who ushered us to the Merrell booth where the new line-up of trail running shoes were on display including the most talked about Barefoot series. I was glad and proud to show them my Trail Glove which I bought especially for the race.

Considering the unpredictability of the weather, I was surprised to see swarms of people gracing the event. According to the organizers, more than 1,500 runners registered for the race and everybody seemed very excited as I was. It was our first time in Timberland Heights and we found the place spectacular because the views were really breathtaking. As we waited for the 5km race to start, my wife and I took photos of the runners and the picturesque background.

Shortly after the 10km participants set off, I took time to do a little bit of stretching and merged with the 5km crowd. According to the announcer, 5km runners were estimated to be 800+ and I was near the far end of the crowd. After the gun shot, it took me a while to cross the starting line due to the large volume of runners. And because of the rough terrain, a lot of runners in front of me were slow in getting their paces. So I tried to navigate and go pass them to catch up with the lead pack.

The terrain was challenging indeed. The pathway along the 1st kilometer was a mix of mud and loose rocks with a combination of dried leaves and grass on the sides of the trail. The 2nd kilometer was mostly uphill along a narrow path which is very slippery. As I was about to catch up to the lead pack, I felt a sudden call of nature. For a while, I tried to ignore it and stay focused.

But as I was nearing the 3rd kilometer leg, I could not hold it much longer and was forced to take a detour beside a bushy portion of the trail to unload the contents my bladder. As I was doing my thing, there was a bit of comic relief because several runners followed and peed beside me. At least, I had people to share my embarrassment with as five to ten runners who were passing us found it funny.

With the time lost from the short detour, it became harder for me to catch up with the leading runners. Much as I tried to increase my speed to regain the time I lost, the trail became narrower and more challenging. After a very steep climb, and as I felt I was about to lose my breath, we came to a plateau where water stations are placed. The last stretch was a steep descent and very muddy but I felt quite smug because my shoes were not holding as much mud while others had to slow down to try and kick off as much mud as they can from their shoes.

photo borrowed from KB Photography

I did gain my second wind but it was too late. The lead pack has left me behind. Still, I pushed myself a little further and tried to finish the run as fast as I could. Based on the unofficial results, I crossed the finish line with a clock time of 40min. 07sec. I ranked 66th out of 800+ finishers. Not bad for a first trail run.

After that very tiring and very challenging race, runners were encouraged to cool-down in an open air shower line where everybody can rinse the sweat and mud from our bodies. As I dried myself off, I was greeted by a few Merrell people and I shared with them the excellent performance of the Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove I wore.

I didn’t get any place in this race but at least I, and a couple of other hopefuls, had fun posing as my wife took photos of us on top of the winners’ podium while we continue to nurture dreams of becoming champions someday.

As we boarded the bus for home, I recollected my journey and was grateful at the new found wisdom I gained from my short training period on barefoot running, the recuperation from minor injuries, and the lessons learned from mistakes committed.

Through all these, I felt really happy that I was able to do so much sans any high rank or medals. For me, that is already one heck of an adventure :)
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