climb

running on empty trails: the north face 100


my only concern when we walked into the mini-stop just outside clark's airport complex was that they might not sell us beer. i wasn't sure what time it was since i may have been besotted to even consult my watch: there's an alcohol ban at 2am. it was already our second trip to the convenience store, having spilled 4 liters of beer onto our happy mouths while beng dispensed relationship advice to those who were still awake after enduring close to an hour of hayden kho's trysts with at least 2 women. we picked out another 2 liters when the doors swung open and a very deeply tanned woman walked inside. it looks like someone's already getting ready for the race, dennis whispered, but when i saw her limping with difficulty towards the cashier carrying a cup of lucky me supreme, i concluded that she had just finished. so i approached her and asked: did you run the TNF 100? yes, she replied. and did you win? i continued. yes, she said again, first place. i congratulated her and her companion who also reported that he and his partner won 2nd place in the relay. it didn't seem obvious but he correctly guessed that we were members of AMCI and reported that igue was still trekking (igue and his partner eventually took 3rd place honors). we bade them goodbye and hoped to see them later at the awarding ceremonies as we carried our "energy drinks" to the car.


how i ended up in clark after deciding not to join the TNF 100 trail run is a product of chance, circumstance, coincidence, and serendipity. i had no one to ride with nor share a place with for the early morning race in clark. sure, about 50 of my orgmates would be joining the race, but i was either too shy or too much of a diva to be asking anyone to allow me to hitch with them or share a place to stay near the venue. i deride rejection, and didn't want to come across as a beggar: pleading with people to accommodate me and my helplessness. it's not exactly the proper attitude, but i don't apologize for it. i figured: if people wanted me to to join them, they'd offer. so by saturday morning, with no offers to choose from, i just decided on an itinerary in the metro. at 10am, i left for quiapo to buy a gallon of white gas in preparation for my climbing season, a floor pump for my deflated tires, and a stand for my bike. while at king's i salivated after some nice-looking frames for road bikes and wondered whether i'd have to shell out P60k just to be able to join the UP law invitational triathlon in july. then i had lunch at the chow king beside the bike shop, where, big surprise: mercy showed up. we talked about a few things and the topic of the TNF 100 came up and she asked if i was going. i told her about my predicament, and one thing led to another, one person texted another, and i ended up receiving a message form jenipie asking if i needed a ride. so that addressed my beggar issues. my plans for the weekend changed, and i packed my deuter bag with supplies. even managed to sneak in a swim at MASA and dropped by S&R for bananas. and i suppose it was providential because jenipie hadn't previously driven herself to clark and would've gotten lost if i hadn't navigated.


so dennis and i returned to our villa at fontana, and beng continued counseling the boys which i felt was kind of ironic after we had just participated in a defilement of women by viewing those sex videos -- i explained my own shame and convinced myself they were for educational reasons, much like when the senate does weird things under the guise of it being in aid of legislation. i was already a bit overwhelmed by the things i saw at the villa: new items and things that may have been talked about -- i am a bit out of circulation. after we had squeezed the last drop of red horse beer, which followed 2 bottles of ginebra premium, the last thing i remember is turning the lights off. the next thing i knew was that angie was shaking the sofa i slept on. i found dennis sleeping on one chair, and alex on the other. the only thing i managed to do that morning was brush my teeth and wash up. when we reached the venue, people noticed my blood-shot eyes and they probably got inebriated just breathing the air around me. lasing ka ba? was a common question, and i always replied, kanina. i must have had just a little over 30 minutes of sleep.


the venue for the run was just outside the clark expo, and some instructor from FF was getting us warmed up with a body combat routine which people were too lazy to do. at 5:30am, the participants in the 20k category were off, and 10 minutes later, it was our turn. the route takes us out to the roads leading to the SCTEx's clark south toll gates, then abruptly left to the lahar channel which may have once been a river. the first queue took place on the route down to the channel while the sun was just rising. it looked like a line for an MRT ticket. stepping on real trail, i was happy to discover that the lahar down there is packed and hard, unlike beach sand, and not slushy or soft. up on the bridge, coach rio was barking apologies to the runners. i could only see his wiry hair. i was running well at the beginning, but i knew what my real intentions were: to take pictures. i had opted for my samsung WB500 because i was unsure of the trail, and also because my nikon D300 is currently undergoing some cosmetic changes. so very frequently, i stopped, framed a photo, and shot. also, at different intervals, i took videos that were between 30 seconds to about a minute long. so throngs of runners were overtaking me. however, at some portions, i would run past them because they slowed down at the sight of water and mud, slowly treading their feet, wary about getting grime and mud on their shoes. i wanted to shout: if you want paved roads, there's another race at fort bonifacio! i was wearing my old NB off-trails, which have not actually experienced a real run such as this one, but which proved to be a good performer as i jumped through slopes that reduced most people's strides to baby steps.


the route is part lahar plains, part forest trails, and a bit of road. i am unsure if the channel gets to be inundated, but the presence of lahar is a clear indication that water runs through it. nevertheless, grass has grown really tall in many places that it looks as if water had generally not risen higher than 5 feet. other than the grass, there is no other vegetation here, and therefore, no shade. the view of the zambales mountain ranges is in the distance, and the sky is a deep blue, against the rising sun in the east. there were at least 2 water stations along this portion, which must have accounted for about 4km. i had only taken one bottle at the beginning: pink gatorade, which i had to hold on to until the next water station where i deposited the bottle. i wondered, at that time, if the bottles would be picked up, or if the trail would be cleaned up after the run. some people complained about there not being enough water stations, but i complained about too many bottles and cups littering the trail. i think runners should be conscious of the fact that we were running through seldom-used trails and that carrying a bottle until the next spot where they could be properly disposed of shouldn't be too much of a burden. not many people share my ideas on this.


when we left the lahar channel, we negotiated some muddy trails inside the forest. at one point there was a steep ascent, and a man at the top had to reach out his hand to the runners, which i found unnecessary, really. i took another trail and found myself at the top unassisted. years of mountaineering experience behind me. when i was there, i was surprised to find that although i had stopped many times, even dropping my foot into a knee-deep hole along the channel, there were still a lot of people behind me, many of them already walking. and the walk continued when we faced the rising sun as mud made the trail slippery, particularly for those who wore road racing shoes. i remarked to kenneth: ano to, alay lakad? when the trail allowed, i resumed my pace, only for the purpose of getting good shots. the trail passed groves of mango trees, and the trail, though untame, appeared as though a 4x4 had been its way before.


after the lapse of another 30 minutes, i suddenly saw james taking pictures. he said the bridge was already nearby, and true enough we found the third water station just at the edge of the road. we turned right towards the bridge, and although you could see the other end, it was an interminable walk across! by this time my feet had gotten used to the trail that it was almost painful to be running on a paved surface. i got pretty lazy just looking at the distance that was left. i was only steadily walking and alternately running. i wasn't there to place or anything, or to beat a time, personal or otherwise. until i saw marga appear behind me, and i had to keep my run! but when i was 20 meters from the finish line, i had to oblige coach rio for a photo! and based on official time, i finished in an hour and 32 minutes, 2 below my sketchy goal.


we lingered for a bit at the finish line, having our pics taken by photo vendo (too much for what seemed like a novel idea), and waiting for our friends to get their prizes: aside from igue, tatax won 2nd in the 10k category, while shay and mercy were 2nd and 3rd in the 20k division. i would've stayed longer but the host was terrible! his prepositions were all over the place and he has the worst lines ever, such as: and the 2nd place winner holds bib number 6-9-9-7... and the name goes to. what the? and he said this at least 10 times (there are 12 winners in each of the 10k and 20k divisions, not counting 100k where all the finishers get these cool commemorative plates and the relay). i know i can do worlds better than him and i really should send in an audition tape to host things like this. eventually, we had to go back to fontana, take much-deserved baths, and check out at 12. we had a hearty 65-peso meal just outside of clark, and before 2pm, i was already in makati. the temptation to sleep was one that i gave into without protest.


for more photos of the event, check out my multiply album.
Great pics of the riverbed run in the light of dawn hitad, I'm thinking wildebeest crossing the Mara. Hey, is that guy climbing up the bank wearing boxers instead of running shorts? Gross :)
i don't think they're boxers... he has pockets on them. hehe.

thanks pops. did you pass through this trail under moonlight?
It was the night before the new moon your honour you drunk, ha ha. It was under the bridge in Petzls and daybreak at the O'Donnell-type canyons upriver.
yes, i was drunk, on saturday night, and could not get myself to look up and see the night sky. hehe.