My first experience of trail running was last year’s Merrell Adventure Run, held at Timberland Heights Binangonan, Rizal. It was a 5k trail run but it felt like it was 21k for me. But after a year of running and finishing dozens of races, I felt I'm ready to do another trail run, so I registered for a 21k at the Love A Tree Run in Tanay, Rizal.
I was attracted to run in this race because the race route was located at the foot-hills of the Sierra Madre mountain range. I had the experience of running in this area a few months ago which I considered to be one of my best runs because of the scenic view, the raw nature and fresh air while I cruise the smooth pavement road barefoot.
Together with about 70 runners from Manila, we were shuttled by two busses at 4:30 in the morning bound to Tanay, Rizal. We arrived at the race venue at 5:30am and as soon as we got our race kits, we proceeded at once to the starting line. Much thanks to Chris Sports and Ms. Arleen Lindo who has been sponsoring some my races for almost a year now. At this point, I managed to bring my minimalist shoes (Merell Barefoot Trail-glove) with me and just tucked it at the back of my shorts just in case things would be a little rough for me to run barefoot along the way.
By 6:00am we were set-off. The first few hundred meters was a 30 degrees decent followed by a short dirt and a steep stair climbing. The next path was a long asphalt road downhill with a much rougher texture. At this point, though I can still with stand the punishment of the quality of the terrain, I didn’t want to wear-out myself too soon in the beginning of the race. Fortunately, the grasses along side of the road are thick, so ran the next 10k of the race off-road.
Everything was a comfortable cruise until we turned at the corner where the trail running adventure began. At this point, I was glad that I brought my minimalist shoes because the terrain was terrible as hell. Jagged rocks, rough dirt roads were prominent. So, I took a pit stop to check my feet and wear my Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove which is design to this kind of terrain.
The trails are mostly steep downhill. In a few minutes I noticed that a group of Kenyan runners was already going back so I thought that the U-turn was just a near, but apparently, it took me a while to reach it. After the U-turn the race marshals guided us to a path that led us to a river bed where we traversed along through it until I reached a bridge where we went to the main path again. Before the race the announcer briefed us about the things we will be up against, including the river which I thought would be just a few crossings. I never expected that it will be a long traverse along the river and against the flow of the current. But I managed to navigate myself along the boulders soaked and exhausted.
The running continues after the river experience but the feel was a lot different. The wet sensation and made a lot of difference. Even with a shoe with good drainage system, I can still feel the density of wet shoes and running on the same pace was a bit difficult. More so that going back now is all up hill. After a while, fatigue came in, so I just walked and so did most of the runners behind me.
After that gruesome trail experience, I was back at the main high way again, but the battle was not yet over because the rest of that road is all up-hill till the finish line. After few kilometers I decided to take off my shoes again and run barefoot. The terrain was manageable but at this point the ITB of my right leg gave me a lot of pressure and after a while, it became unbearable. It took a quick stop to do some ITB stretching until it became manageable again to run. As soon as cross the finish line, I immediately made a full stretching to rest my muscles because the week after will be another 21k run at Run United.
Photos: courtesy of Chris Sports and www.jazzrunner.wordpress.com