TNF 100 Baguio Saga: Alone, but not Running Alone


Photo ops with Doc Cecile, refilled my water bottle, and ate a boiled sweet potato. The sweltering heat of the midday sun was already burning every inch of my exposed skin. I could already even smell my sweaty self. And yeah, I was a bit conscious of how I smelled that time! But who cares anyway? I bet everyone already smelled of sweat by that time. Ahahah!

I felt good knowing that the 3rd Aid Station is along the main road. I’ve seen a couple of jeeps packed with passengers passed by. With my water bottle filled up, I left the 3rd AS as soon as I was done. A few runners were ahead of me. Some were trailing behind. The concrete road was followed by a short stretch of rough road which led to kilometres and kilometres of trail. It was a typical trail, often treaded by people living nearby. The uphill climb was no longer an issue. It was something that I’ve already expected. The air was dry. Thirst and thirst was imminent. The surrounding areas were purely fields, ridges, tall grasses and trees. I felt relieved whenever a gust of wind blew in, or a patch of clouds hovered overhead. Looking far ahead, all I could see was a carpet of summer burned grass, which was a contrast to the dark green mountains. The trail seemed less frequented by people. Some parts even looked as if no one had set foot on them. The only markers were the red and white TNF flags erected along the route. Some runners walked past me, and I walked past the other runners. I barely knew anyone I met, save for Choi whom I came across along the course, but he told me to just go ahead. Striking a conversation with anyone was casual. Perhaps because everyone just needed someone to talk to amidst the heat, fatigue, thirst and hunger.

       

The trail led to the forest. Since the trail was softer, I have managed to do a run – walk routine. It was easier to exert an extra effort because of the cooler environment. It really helped me gain more mileage in lesser time. The route, however, became more exciting and, yeah, more challenging. I haven’t noticed that lunchtime had passed. I was running and walking, up and down the trail – in the middle of the forest. Various vegetations abound the area – from towering trees to shrubs and bamboos. The soft breeze was cool. The air was pure. What was going on in my mind at that time was the existence of snakes, which brought a chilling sensation down my spine. I tried my best to shoo away that idea, and thought about the happy things, and making it to the 4th Aid Station. I was running out of water. Water consumption had to be regulated since the next water station is at the 4th AS. Been on the trail for about 2 hours and there were no runners in sight. I was the only person wandering inside the forest, following the TNF signs. Thankfully, I felt some relief when I came across a marshal. He was stationed in the area where runners had to rappel down through a rope. Despite being alone, excitement enveloped me as I bumped into the walls of the ravine. I thought it was fun. Then I was running alone again, jumping across a crevice, some moss covered rocks, a log, or running under a trunk of fallen tree.

Running in the forest was awesome. But wasn’t long enough. Sunlight had cut through the shades. The sun was shining brightly; the rays piercing through my colored shades, burning my skin. The air has thinned and I could smell the scent of the withered leaves. It was then that I realized I lost my water bottle – the one I got from Salomon Trail run. I was left with just one water bottle which I got en route to the 3rd AS. I was thinking of going back to look for it, but I decided not to because there’s a big chance that I won’t be able to find. And time was running out also. I need to be at the 4th AS soon. It was already past 12 noon. I kept on running past a few runners. I was hoping that runners behind me would be able to find my water canister and hand it over to the marshal but that was next to impossible. Under the sun, I was beginning to feel exhausted. The water I had left was good for one last drink. A few meters ahead, another marshal came into view. A basin was filled with running water coming from a black water hose. He told me that the water was safe for drinking. I filled my bottle and flushed my face with the cold water. I can’t get enough of the untreated and chlorine – free spring water. I wanted to take a bath to be refreshed, but at that point, I don’t think it was a good option. So I got on my feet and walked on. Time was dragging. Each step that I took seemed not to be taking me anywhere. I can’t contain my excitement when I saw an open field, runners were scattered around. I screamed off as I ran. When I reached the area, I checked my mobile phone; it was about half past 1. I filled my water bottle. Had my photos taken (thanks to the marshal who volunteered), got myself a banana and proceeded to the shaded area in front of what looked like a warehouse to get the much needed rest. While seated, I saw some familiar faces; one of them was my really good friend JC Navarette.

AS4: 42k.

At exactly 2pm, I got up and made my way through the remaining kilometres to the 5th Aid Station, and the 2nd Logistics Point (LP). Some runners have already left at least 15 minutes ahead of me. For the most part, I was running on my own. Occasionally, I ran past some runners. The course was made of rough road and concrete road – all downhill. I was three hours away from the 55th kilometre 15 hour cut off time. All the while, I thought that the distance from the 4th AS to 5th AS was only 10 kilometres. Well, that’s the prize of not studying the route map! I had to numerously ask some runners I met as to how far we are from the next AS. From what I gathered, AS5 was roughly 12 kilometres away. And I felt pretty confident that I would make it within the cut off time. The rough road brought torture to my feet. The sun was unwavering. The road was deserted. I could barely spot a house. Vast farmlands were teeming with vegetation. There was no sign of public utility vehicles. And with its scarcity, the locales had to walk a good 10 kilometres from the main road to their homes. I actually met a couple of them and felt pity for them. Yet, I could say that I’m still proud of them because, despite of the difficulties of the situation they’re in, they showed resilience and somehow, contentment. They seemed happy with what they have.

I have covered a seemingly endless stretch of rough and concrete roads in two hours, with the goal of reaching LP2 within the cut off time. And I was surprised to see some runners who have resigned from the race and just took their time to rest in a hut by the road. They were the ones who left the AS4 ahead of me. In the next few meters, I saw some more runners sitting on the grassy part on the roadside. One even asked if I can still make it, to which I replied “I’ll try.” It was already 4:10 in the afternoon. And I don’t have the slightest idea how far the cut – off point was. I started to take on a faster pace. With a shot of adrenaline, I never stopped running for the next 20 minutes or so. I could feel the wind brushing my face as I raced downhill. Thankfully, I didn’t suffer from any leg or muscle cramps anymore. The only thought I had was to get to AS5. The main road (it was Kennon Road) came into view as I made a downhill right turn. Reaching the main road, across the river, I could see the large tarp printed with the race’s official hydration partner. I though that’s where AS5 was located. Straight ahead, there was a group of people – marshals, runners and non – runners. I was about to make a right turn towards the steel hanging bridge when the marshals waved that I should go straight towards them. Doubt made its way to my senses that I had to ask a marshal which way I should take for confirmation. When I reached LP2, Salomon’s brand manager, Janice, gave me a very tight hug and congratulated me. I felt a bit proud of myself for making it to the 5th Aid Station/ Logistics Point 2, 20 minutes ahead of the cut off time. My chest was heaving up and down and I was panting like a dog. Still catching my breath, a marshal came up to me to check my mandatory gears, after which, handed me a baller ID.

I took a seat on the curb as Janice handed me a Summit bottled water and 100 Plus. I took out a can of Century corned tuna for my early dinner. I fixed my backpack for the next 45 kilometres. I had my gummy bears, my energy gels, bite sized gelatins, and bottled water. I unloaded some of the contents of my backpack, including a pair of running shoes, thinking that the Vibram Speed I was wearing could get me through to the finish line.

I can’t thank God enough for the strength He gave me. And yes, God grants the desires of our hearts, as long as we have faith in Him, and that our intentions are pure and sincere. God is so good. All those times, I felt I was alone. But I know I wasn’t running alone.

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2 Responses to TNF 100 Baguio Saga: Alone, but not Running Alone

  1. Pingback: TNF 100 Baguio Saga – SuPLaDoNG_iRiSH | TravelDilz Blog

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