Friday, June 8, 2012

2012 Merrell Adventure Run: Conquered 21k with three kilos of mud covering my body

  

Three weeks before the Merrell Adventure Run, I had the opportunity to join a group of media on a test run of the trails of Timberland Heights, San Mateo Rizal. I wrote a blog post and took some snap shots of the trails and the over –all condition of the running environment so that my readers may somehow have a glimpse of what to expect come June 2. Through the help of social media the blog posts we uploaded have created a viral effect and excitement among seasoned runners that resulted to the increase of registrants which lead to an extended cut-off registration for the 21k distance. However, the fun and exciting “walk-in-the park” photos we posted were a bit far from what we experienced last June 2. The 2012 MAR definitely separated the men from the boys. It was not just an adventure run; it was an endurance challenge that required stamina, strength and trail running skills.

 The 21k distance separated the men form the boys...

Before MAR, there were two days of continues rains and at that point I knew the trails will be flooded and slippery. Exchanges of runners in MAR FB page osunded also a bit apprehensive if the run will still push thru because of the weather condition. Apparently, on the race day the rains stopped and showed a bit of clear sky.

 A gloomy 5:30am, MAR 2012 gathered unprecedented turn-out of runners


Our shuttle bus arrived at Timberland just a few minutes before the gun start for the 21k category, so as soon as I deposited my bag, I hurriedly merged with the 21k runners and waited for the countdown. I made a quick peak of the trail head and saw the muddy trails and from there I knew it will be a difficult trail running for all of us. As soon as the gun fired, adrenalin suddenly began pumping in. Narrow trails on the first kilometer started to be crowded, so I geared down to a slower pace as not to waist too much energy.

 The first kilometer stretch...

I managed to be with the lead pack at first, so the trails were not yet as adulterated. My aging Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove still managed to hold on to some slippery portions of the trails, but its few remaining tractions were short lived when we arrived at the 6k mark. From then on, running on a constant pace was a big challenge because the mud was slippery and thick. Any effort of increasing a pace would guarantee slide crashes and even on areas were the trails seemed flat, showed potential danger of sliding. Throughout the course, I experienced more than 20 slide crashes in different landing positions. There was even a time where my left foot held on to the ground and the other one slide forward giving me a ballerina split position. In times like these, I just have to find humor in everything and enjoy the run under all circumstances.

 Unadulterated trails that is yet to be brutalized

Shortly after, I arrived at the river traverse portion of the race, another highlight of MAR where most runners look forward to experience it. The approach was more difficult compared to our test run, where it was sunny. Weather really made a lot of difference in the performance of the run. To make it through, runners inched their way along the slippery side of the river bank until we passed by the falls. At the first loop, all 21k runners went around it and crossed the river via the make shift bridge constructed by the locals out of bamboos.

 River traversing... a more friendlier terrain compared to the one last June 2.

Soon after, it was a steep climb. Both 10k and 21k clawed our way up with the aid of ropes alongside the trails. But even with the ropes, the climb was a struggle. But somehow, the difficulty of the run was barely noticed because of many unintentional rests due to crowded trails and walking along slippery mud. The physical fatigue was more on keeping the balance and enduring countless slide-crashes. It was only by sheer divine interventions I didn’t incur any injuries from those crashes. Somehow the soft ground and mud dampen the fall. From those mud-slides one can practically taste the mud itself.

 RJ Knight Runner landing face down on the one of the mud-pits

As I thought that it would not come any worse, I arrived at the man-made mud-pits, race organizers constructed to give additional obstacle for the runners to overcome (as if the natural obstacles were not hard enough). MAR runners were all required to crawl in all fours on the series of mud puddles almost two feet thick. This were the part that we all got down and dirty.

Crawling on all fours in one of the mud-pits

Exhausting and yet amazingly fun...

After the first loop, the crowded trails started to trim down, so I was able to run on a constant pace. Distances between runners widened in the 16th kilometer mark, so there were times I found myself running alone on the trails. I normally keep a watch when I run, but this time I didn’t bring it, so I was not aware of my current time. Nonetheless, I made it a point to keep my running pace a notch higher and tried my best to overtake runners in front of me.

 At the 16k mark.Trying to keep a constant pace...

In many instances, as much as I wanted to go faster, slippery mud made it very difficult. But In the last few kilometers, sky started to clear up that made the ground a bit drier. The slippery mud became a thick sticky dirt that builds up on the shoes. But for me it was a relief because my Trail Glove didn’t held so much mud because of its slick and thin design. I passed by several runners who can barely run because of the volume of mud stuck to their shoes. Often times, they would stop for a while and tried as much as they can to clean them up a bit.

 Shoes accumulating 3 kilos of mud

The last kilometer stretch was a cruising pace. With the difficulty of the race, I still managed to finish it 4 hours six minutes. A normal running time for a 42 kilometer run. After cooling down, I quickly went to the open shower area and clean myself up. I enjoyed chatting with fellow finishers who also shared their gruesome and yet fun experiences along the trails of Timberland.

 Crossing the finish line at 4 hours and 6 minutes


After the run was a nice cold open shower

Looking back, if I were to assess my MAR experience this year, a lot of down side factors dominates it. The worn-out shoes, the muddy-slippery trails which resulted to numerous slide crashes along the way, the bad weather and more, maybe discouraging for some, but despite all these, it was an amazing running adventure for me. An adventure not many would dare to thread, but I did and I conquered it. And if the weather next year would be as bad, then bring it on, MAR 2013!
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