and now it can be told with some degree of certainty. my team finished at the top of the heap in the manila leg of the 2006 enduro san mig light adventure series. 12th place might not sound impressive to some. but for race debutantes such as ourselves, haunted by inexperience, twin injuries and lack of proper training, 12th place in a field of 62 teams might as well have been 1st.
i have spoken unashamedly of my first foray into adventure racing in this blog previously, and how excited i was about it, going to great lengths to make sure i will be, at the very least, prepared to meet its challenges. i talked about my goals: about being able to run 10km a week previous to the race, about running a decent distance while under the sun, about getting my own MTB, about buying my own bike helmet. but none of these materialized. the longest i ran was about 6km. i opted out of finishing a 6km morning run. i postponed getting a bike. and roy loaned me his OMB helmet. on a pleasant saturday morning, i sped off to the QC circle decked in my race attire: the black helmet crowning my head, my red rudy project rydon covering my eyes, a gray and red nike shirt on my body, my orange TNF gulper on my back, my thighs inside a pair of red columbia shorts, and my feet carried by a pair of new balance running shoes. now it may sound overly brand-conscious of me to be talking too much about gear, when what i took part in was a race, and not a fashion show. but that morning looked like a tournament of athletic brands. some teams came sponsored by big names, dressed in not only in matching shirts, but also in matching helmets.
i didn't feel at ease in the beginning, primarily because i didn't look like i was made from the same cookie cutter as most of these racers. a whole lot of them looked like they'd trained rather seriously for this. hell, there was even a team from the PMA! (incidentally, they finished 25th.) rather immediately, team AMCI sweepers, composed of a harried and hurried bunch including jenny and kiko, only hoped to finish the race in a respectable time. and why hurried? i say that because we were more or less replacements really. dennis had a different team in mind when he was first possessed with the idea of racing. i had already registered our team when dennis belatedly decided to pull out due to a conflict with work. but things happen for a reason, and these sharp turns proved not to be our undoing.
with a support crew composed of other AMCI sweepers, namely jing, doc, and armin, our team braced for a fun adrenaline-filled experience. first wave started at 9.30am. we watched them, and tried to pick up some tricks. when our turn came, rain started to fall. in less than a minute, a thin layer of water was on the ground, and rushing feet quickly turned things muddy. at 9.55, we started untying a series of knots, while our wrists were bound to the end of the rope. we didn't realize until there were 2 knots left that we were WAY ahead of everyone else. we'd improved on a strategy that one of the teams from the first wave did. and when we got our pass, the host announced that we had broken a record. we ran to the next task, some kind of pipe relay. my lower back hurt when i finally stood up and we started running to the city hall. "manong tatawid kami!" i yelled, and we crossed the otherwise really pedestrian-dangerous QC circle. got our passport signed at CP1, and we were off to grilla near ever gotesco.
"manong wag na kayo magsakay, magbaba na lang kayo," i yelled at the jeepney driver. the rules state that no taxis are allowed, and hiring isn't allowed either. technically, i just offered to pay for the unoccupied seats so the jeep doesn't make frequent stops and prolonged waits for passengers to fill in. we still commuted in that sense. i think the driver was also possessed by thoughts of racing, because he really flew! we got off at don antonio avenue, and ran towards grilla. mental challenge. not only for us but for the studio 23 host who couldn't seem to get his spiel properly. the problem was this: count the number of bottles on a photograph, add that number to the ml content of the bottle and the can. that's X. to get Y, multiply X with san mig light's alcohol content, which is 5%. then add X and Y, and subtract 100.5. the answer is the combination to the lock. first count: 111. second count 109. regardless of how correctly you compute the problem, you'd be leagues off the answer if your count isn't correct. meanwhile, teammate jenny (aka suziestorm) suggested the count was either 102 or 98. why the disparity? well, the picture wasn't exactly clear. it was like a really small jpg file which was blown up, and was heavily pixelized. meanwhile, kiko was just trying to hack the lock. finally, 3rd count yielded 110, and the combination to the lock: 708. we took a long time in this CP, but was still ahead of the 2nd wave.
we went down and ran to ever gotesco activity center for the nerve challenge for CP4. this is one of those games we used to play as kids that test how steady your hands are. earlier, we'd decided that kiko and jenny were going to do it. i just cheered them on. in the middle of the twisted metal rod, just before the loop, is space wrapped with electrical wire. the handcuffed hands can rest here. looking back, i think it would have been easier had they let go of the hoop first, but despite the difficult loop, by some feat owing no less to their amazing skill, we finished the nerve challenge on our first try. "kayo pa lang ang nakakarating dito," the lady said. we ran towards commonwealth when i realized something: we'd skipped CP3! in the excitement, i forgot that after grilla, we were supposed to run towards don antonio royale estates for the water challenge. so we did. this consumed as much as 5 minutes because of the added distance. and this early, jenny's knees were starting to send signals to the rest of her body. i basically saw several teams overtake us on the way to the clubhouse. but i kept telling myself: first wave, first wave. haha. so basically an idea hit my head: there's a chance we'd do really well!
at the clubhouse, kiko did the first task, which was to dive into the deep pool and retrieve 6 chips of the same color and the same pattern. there was one contestant who was taking chips different from what he was collecting, so that consumed time. next task was to fill 6 san mig light bottles with water from a sponge that had to be relayed. we finished that quickly. ran back to commonwealth. well, run a little, walk, and wait. jenny's knees weren't cooperating. but hey, this is so much fun. and the weather still looks really gloomy. haha. we cornered another jeep and gave the same instructions. we speed through late morning commonwealth traffic. in another jeep, there were 2 teams. 1st wave. at east fairview village, we caught up with neri's team. bigla akong nalungkot. our mission, one which we chose to accept, was to finish ahead of all the other AMCI teams. then jenny told me, first wave sila. sumaya ulit ako.
it was a biathon from the gate to la mesa dam. CP5. i had volunteered to run since both kiko and jenny weren't too keen on further exposing their bum knees to torture. inside the la mesa dam, we noticed that some teams basically just left their bikes behind for the other team members to pick up. a good strategy we hadn't thought of earlier. by the time we reached CP6, we were no longer front-running wave 2. fine. just be sure janice's team is way behind. and ver's team as well. haha. while doing the boat task, i noticed that don's team was 1 flag ahead of us. that's at least 4 minutes. had i known that early that don's team would end up getting 2nd place overall, then i would've carried jenny on my back! haha. what made this task difficult was that we only had one oar. at least we didn't get caught in the bushes like one team. when we started on the trail run task, jenny could hardly run. on our way there, we saw some of the teams who had finished the task ahead of us carrying ribbons! at the briefing at QC circle, we were supposed to be getting stubs, and not ribbons. so these teams took the trail signs! they should've been slapped with penalties! where are the marshals? anyway, i got the blue and yellow stubs, but this guy at the white trail demanded that all 3 team members should be present. i shout at jenny and kiko to run up the trail. good thing they were within hearing distance. either that or the bushes and trees carried my voice to where they were. biathon again to la mesa dam's gate, and find fortune smashers inside east fairview. along the way, i body slam dya-ke. we're at least 30 minutes ahead of them! yes! i volunteered to run ahead of everyone. tweet overtook me on her bike, and she leaves it by the wayside. it gets picked up by joseph, who bikes really fast, skids at a turn, slips, falls, scratches his arm, and blames the whole thing on tweet's slippery wheels. i run to him, remembering the rule about racers helping out others in need. but he quickly picks himself up and continues to bike. i continue to run.
outside la mesa dam's gate, our support crew was waiting, and directions to fortune smashers were given. for CP7. kiko and jenny tied a beer bucket onto their waists, and the idea was to shoot shuttlecocks into the bucket. another team was doing it all wrong. this girl kept smashing balls up in the air, far from where her teammates were. i, on the other hand, "flicked" the balls to jenny and kiko. they caught 3 out of 5 cocks i let fly. we just got here, and already, we were already checking out! woohoo! then onto the support vehicle to PNOC for rappelling and puzzle solving. we crammed ourselves into armin's vitara. support driver jing in front, together with doc and jenny. behind them kiko, myself, armin, and her companion. the bike was on the rack behind the vehicle. there was some discussion at first as to where PNOC was, and luckily, i correctly remembered that the driveway started at the billboard with the sick baby on a stroller. run towards the water tank. don's team had just finished, and egged me on. my teammates were still way behind me. walkathon. haha. for CP9 kiko was to do the rappel, jenny and i the wood puzzle. this is one of those animal/insect/dinosaur wood puzzles one buys at SM. the team just beside us kept shouting, "you're really good at this, you're really good at this" in an accent which makes me suspect they either came from the ateneo or worked in a call center. kaya ko rin yan, i thought, while exchanging friendly insults with the other AMCI teams. finally, we finished the puzzle, and i let out a scream. actually, we didn't do it correctly. but it still held on, and stood just like the picture, so there. they accepted it. only thing to do is to wait for kiko. there was a long queue. 3 AMCI teams were there. friendly banter again, while other teams looked on. i tried to massage jenny's knee. when we were done, i said i'll run ahead. and i did. run along the sidewalk, past the decrepit walls of pasiklab sa QC, past petron, and then wait under the footbridge to citimall. i thought this might confuse other racers. and it almost did. so when ver slowed down to check if this was the pedestrian overpass they were going to cross, i told him, "takbo pa kayo, yung bakal ang tawirin nyo! andun pa yun!" yes, it pays to be from QC. and commonwealth at that! hehe.
meanwhile, i spoke to one of the barkers there, and he tells me, not in the most encouraging tone after i told him we were in a race, that about 50 people had gone ahead of us. i wanted to explain to him that we were part of wave 2! and i was waiting long until jenny arrived. and where was kiko? it turned out that leg cramps took him down, and he sat for about 2 minutes. but i told them we were almost there. i waited for them at the foot of the new footbridge from philcoa to the circle. we were 18th on the list! the barker was actually correct. there were 51 people ahead of us. from there, kiko and i held both of jenny's hands, nearly dragging her along as we trotted inside the park, and crossed the finish line in 3 hours and 13.49 minutes. the next AMCI team composed of joseph, tweet, and norman, finished after a minute. the finish line area was really really muddy, and we lingered there for a while, waiting to see who else was finishing. we drank the beers we were required to bring, and then had our pictures taken at the stage, now overwhelmed by mud. it was so much fun to be just there. to have been part of something that attracted buff, scary, superbly cut athletes including women with more corners on their faces than spongebob squarepants as well as the most ordinary, corporate and sedentary-looking yuppies and landing way at the top, is something initially overwhelming, and a tinge disappointing. deep inside, you know you could've done much better. but the spirit of competition isn't so much about winning, but achieving the goal. and in the beginning, the goal was never to win, but to finish. and finish we did, better than we had expected. this is a huge event, and it is even a "huger" accomplishment on my part. it equals the feeling of reaching new summits. i felt good. i was floating.
and as the energy that possessed us all those 3 hours were slowly ebbing away, being replaced by a profound pain, we walked slowly towards the restaurants, suddenly realizing our hunger. we proceeded to chicken bacolod inasal. while the rest of us changed into dry clothes, i just opted to wait for our food to arrive. the AMCI group occupied a long table inside the restaurant, and was particularly noisy.
after that late lunch, i went home. after getting the results, now i know that while i was on my way home, some teams were still on their way to the finish line. at home, i was supposed to shower, but after i undressed, i just fell asleep. there was still supposed to be a party at metrowalk later that evening, but the rain wouldn't stop. i woke up at 6.30pm, and gingerly got ready for the party. i had no expectations, except the confirmation that we were in fact among the top finishers.
the party at metrowalk in ortigas started late. partly due to the rain. after dinner at dencio's, we collected our finisher's shirts. blue, and unforgivably small. but it is something i value a lot. beer was free, and we were scheduled to do an interview with wave. since georgia was done, we were thrown to lana of jam. she used her cellular phone, and while i was getting into the groove, putting glitters into our experience, our live patch was unceremoniously cut. haha. it would've been my second live radio interview. i could be a DJ, i swear. we were supposed to go back to continue the interview but i wasn't very interested in it. after all, the awarding had started, and our friends were in the winners' circle. suziestorm has a better version of the radio interview.
the party wasn't as crowded as we had expected. a lot of people stayed out of the square in front of the stage. it appeared like an AMCI party, really. and it might as well have been. AMCI fielded 9 teams in all; 3 of these teams won, and there were several support crews there to get free booze. janice, who knows many of the organizers, got us nearly overflowing beer. a reggae band played, and we were dancing and jumping like crazed and drugged party persons. i totally forgot about the pains on my gastrocnemius and quads. yeah, i partied and danced while holding on to my bottle of san mig light. there was this guy who was feeling it, and he was doing these really awkward movements. we had fun at his expense. haha. then, just as we were supposed to move our butts to mardel's house, they announced a new game. i pulled in dya-ke and janice. it turned out that the game was a longest line relay. just our luck! i was the only one wearing shoes with laces! haha. so we connected everything, and before i could get my shirt off, dya-ke was already in his undies. i wanted to opt out of the game. soon enough, the other team's line was longer than ours. they told me to take off my pants. i wouldn't. i couldn't, actually. it was the longest 30 seconds of that evening, when i battled with myself, thinking about the consequences of taking my pants off. dya-ke is an exhibitionist. i am a lawyer, and in spite of all the crazy things i've done, i still have a good reputation. and i wanted to keep it. i have not undressed in public, literally or figuratively, this blog notwithstanding. with the knowledge that 1/4 of the people there were my friends and that everyone else didn't know me, i took off my pants. what was i thinking at that precise time? what color were my underpants. thank goodness i wasn't wearing my orange briefs. haha. so strip i did, and we won by at least a meter. our prize: a big san mig light umbrella. this has got to be the most expensive umbrella of all because i got it at great cost to my reputation, my pride, and my shame. haha.
and immediately after that game, i was completely sapped of energy. while i was tying my shoelaces, "adonis" was bugging me about the umbrella. fat chance i was going to give it away. i nearly sold my soul for it, so it was staying with me. i looked around. people weren't staring at me in a funny, scarlet-letter kind of way, so i was fine. we went to mardel's. i ate, stayed away from alcohol, and went home. that had to be the most interesting saturday i have ever had.