The TNF 100 Baguio: The Thrilling Experience of the Trails


There were only a handful of us 100k runners who were trailing behind the pack. We had just set foot inside of what looked like a forest. I know it wasn’t really a forest.  But it seemed like one – maybe because it was still dark and there was nothing you could see, except the trail, the ground, the pines, some bushes and shrubs, the scent of the morning air, and in some parts, the smell of an animal dung, which I suspected could be of a horse’s.

In the midst of the darkness in the wee hours of the morning, I felt I was the only person treading along the trail, occasionally looking for the markers.  And at some point, I couldn’t see anyone. And the only thing I could see was the light coming from the headlamps of the runners far ahead, or those from behind me.  All of the sudden, I heard voices coming from behind me.  More runners were going the same I route I was taking. They were the 50k runners. I knew it was already past 4am.  Then I thought I might have taken the wrong route. I looked back and saw other runners in the same category as mine on the same route.  At least, if I got lost, I won’t be the only one. Yet, it was a bit of an assurance that I was on the right trail.  We reached the first water station, where the marshals were giving directions – 50k runners to take the trail to the right, and 100k runners to take the trail to the left.

The first Aid Station was 8.6km from the start line. Thinking that it was still early in the morning, I decided not to stop by. About half past 4 in the morning, we reached the top of a hilly ground. The air was cold as it touched my skin. I could a feel a freezing sensation in my face and in my lips. My hands and fingers were freezing. The air coming out of my nostrils and my mouth turned into a fog – like formation. But beneath the NorthFace jacket I borrowed from Yongsky, my sweat was dripping.  I could feel them trickling off my back and arms. It was still dark. Looking around, in a far distance, I could only see specks of light coming from what seemed to be communities.

The downward trail led to a wooden gate hinged to a tree. I walked past the gate and reached a flatter surface.  The trail was about a foot or two wide. On my left were weeds with razor sharp edged leaves. To my right was a cliff.

We passed some houses. There was a woman who could have been in her 60’s with a thermos in her hand. A couple or three others were just watching us behind a fenced front yard.

The early morning sun had come up giving everything in sight a color of its own. Three hours of trekking and running up and down the trail, hunger had gotten into me. I took out a pack of bite sized nata de coco flavored gelatin from my backpack.  A few metres ahead, a man was seated doing some household chore, while a little girl about 4 or 5 years old was looking on and then she shifted her eyes on me.  I said my morning greeting while running past them towards a wooden fence.  Seeing how the little girl’s face lit up when I greeted them, I ran back towards them and gave her the last piece of gelatin that I was holding in my hand. I hurried towards the fence, put my foot on the wooden ladder and hoisted my self up and jumped off on the other side.

Slowly, the sun was melting away the cool breeze.  The temperature has started creeping up.  The trail has led to rough road.  I was running out of water. The second Aid Station was a few kilometers ahead. But at that time, running was not an option. I had to save up on my energy. I walked past some runners. Some runners ran past me.  Nonetheless, we all met up at the second Aid Station. I chanced upon Team USB and had our photo taken. We recharged, refueled, and refilled our hydration gears. We even cared to laugh a little about the remaining distance of the course, which was roughly 80 kilometres. After having rested a little, one by one or in groups, we got to our feet to tread the next 11 kilometres. A long stretch of rough roads didn’t take long to lead us to the trails and terrains of Benguet.

The trail was engaging. It prodded one to just keep going. I was uncertain where it was leading but I knew that I should get to where the next Aid Station would be. The scenic view of the vast horizon was boundless. The air was getting humid by the hour, then by the minute. It was only mid – morning and I haven’t gone even just a quarter of the full course yet. Anxiety and impatience were building up as tiredness mixed up with hunger and thirst.  But by just looking around and having little chat with fellow warriors that I met along the trail, any amount of boredom took a back seat.

Unwittingly, the trail has already started its ascent. It was fun at first.  But as the uphill climb went on endlessly, it became an “up – hell” climb. It was a steep slope.  At times, I had to literally crawl upward. How I wished that mountain wasn’t there to begin with. Quad pains have become imminent, and cramps in both my quads have been recurring. I have barely taken a little a quarter of the course.  I had to sit down on the ground, stretched my legs and get some rest whenever the cramps and quad pains became unbearable. I was even active on Facebook! Comments and likes just kept coming. Jess was texting me and asking how far I’ve gone. Their thoughtfulness served as my energy booster. Seeing the marshals along the route was quite a relief.  They were fun to talk with. They were the human kilometre markers as well as photographers. They gave me the extra push that I so badly needed. At least they didn’t push me off the cliff. Ahahah..! Reaching the peak was an arduous climb and required a lot of effort. But it was fun climb with the Team USB lads, Reylynne and Chinky. Laughter and little talks were the best compelling factors that got us through the tough climbs.

                                        

I would like to share the short and common conversation I had with the marshals.
Me: How far is the next Aid Station?
Marshal: Ahm..not really far from here. Around 4 kilometres.

Approximately an hour after, seeing another marshal…
Me: How far is the next Aid Station?
Marshal: It shouldn’t be far. Around 4 kilometres.

The third marshal I spoke witt…
Me: How far is the next Aid Station?
Marshal: When you reach the peak, it’s a flat road for about 1.5k and rolling for about 2.5k.

About half an hour later…
The fourth marshal (I believe he was) riding a motorcycle…
Me: How far is the next Aid Station?
Marshal: That’s about 2.5k from here.
Me: What’s the landmark?
Marshal: The radar.

We went on our way covering every kilometre of the course. Then minutes turned to hours, yet there was no sign of the radar.  Maybe out of sheer frustration, I blurted out: “Saan na ba ang punyetang radar na ‘yan?!” (Where the hell is that radar?!) Everyone burst out laughing! Still, we continued with our journey not knowing how soon can we get to the next Aid Station. It was almost midday. The ground, covered with loose stones and pebbles, was hot. And whenever we get to a shaded area, relief was instant. Energizing.  Reylynne referred to it as “Aircon!”  

The air conditioned patch in the midst of the roads, the pines and trails.

We reached another stretch of concrete road. Team USB lads were about 500 metres ahead. Reylynne and Chinky were a few hundred metres behind. Feeling the need to eat, I took the second pack of nata de coco flavored gelatin. Then I came across another kid playing on the roadside.  He was about 5 or 6 years old. I gave him what’s left of the gelatin, to which he said “Salamat po.” (Thank you.) There’s a certain kind of satisfaction in me knowing that I have made a couple of kids happy on that day.

I have already lost track of time and distance – 4 kilometers was no longer different from 1 kilometre. A few hundred metres away was a house near to what could’ve been the radar. It was a satellite antenna for transmitting communication signals. While we’re getting near, some of us were thinking about blueberry cheesecake, a McFloat, and I for one, was thinking about greentea blended cream frapuccino! We were surprised to see a lot of runners taking their much needed food break. Once inside, you can see a long wooden bench, a dining table, and a billiards table. Most of the runners who stopped by ordered for a instant noodles and a bottle of soda. A cold drinking water was offered for free. The noodles have run out when we got there.  It was an oasis for the runners who were all hungry, thirsty and tired.

The Runners’ Oasis.

After approximately 10 minutes inside the oasis, I left and went ahead. The road led to the main concrete road.  There were houses, a school building, people, vehicles. After hours of being literally in the middle of nowhere, I have reached a community. There were children and adults sitting by the roadside. One kid was holding a camera phone and was taking a video as I was approaching them. There were convenient stores – one of which was selling the summer favorite halo – halo. At midday, who can resist it? I didn’t have the courage to resist the tempting coolness of halo – halo.

Halo-Halo Made in Ampucao

Reaching the third Aid Station, I bumped into Doc Cecil. I learned that he wasn’t running, but rather he was part of the rescue team. I filled my water bottles. The cold water the marshal handed me was so refreshing and thirst quenching. It was more than enough to prep me up for the next 11 kilometre walk/trek/run in the middle of the mountains, forests, ridges and what-have-you.

Taking out my phone from my backpack, I sent an SMS to my friend in Baguio – “I have reached Ampucao.”

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2 Responses to The TNF 100 Baguio: The Thrilling Experience of the Trails

  1. Noel says:

    Great play-by-play… Cant wait for the remaining 70K story. 🙂

    Like

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