On October 4th 2014 I entered my second trail marathon. This event differed from the Banaue – Batad marathon in that it goes through much more remote areas with little to no permanent settlements. There’s almost only a few hundred meters on road, with the rest being dirt roads, and the majority single track trails. There’s also 2,000 meters of total ascent and a sting in the tail at 30km with a steep climb back from Miyamit Falls itself. The route is an out and back trail, starting at an activity park called the “Sandbox” in Porac, passing through the small native Aeta settlement of Sapang Uwak (crow river), then up to the peak of Donald McDonald, with a panoramic view across to the Mount Pinatubo Caldera. From there, turn around and head back, with about 5km side trip to the falls on the way down.
There’s only 3 aid stations on the route, all in the first 12km, up to the junction with the falls. This makes you self supporting for the approximately 20km out and back (10km each way) from the junction to the peak and back.
I had done very little training and preparation for this race, as I was trying to rest up the ITBS injury I sustained in the Banaue – Batad marathon a few weeks previously. However, I know I have a pretty good base physical fitness, can walk faster than most and have the mental fortitude to get me through. I wasn’t expecting to put in a good time, or race hard. There’s a good field of runners who I would have difficulty competing with even in my best shape. My aim was to finish within the cutoff time, of 10 hours. Which should be quite feasible, even if I walked most of the route I reckoned on 9 hours.
Things started well for the first 7km then I felt the unmistakable twinge of the ITBS coming back to haunt me. Rather than push on and cause more pain and difficulties, I decided to slow the pace. Power walk and use my new trekking poles for some assistance to help propel me along on the uphill sections. I was able to keep a pretty good pace still despite the injury, and was keeping to my target of 5km per hour. The uphills with ITBS aren’t so much a problem, but I knew I was going to struggle coming down. Even I was power walking, I was able to pretty much keep a good pace even against those running. I caught up with most of them on the hills, where they ran the flats and walked the hills, I walked the flats but then was able to catch up with my good fitness and steady uphill pace. Some of them were blown out by the time they reached the hills after running the flats. I knew it wouldn’t last though, the long downhills coming back from the peak were going to be agony for me and slow moving, the runners would be bombing past. I reached the peak still in the top 30 out of approximately 100 participants. Not bad considering I had barely ran more than 7km of the whole route.
Coming down things started to get painful. ITBS causing intense pain in your knee when coming downhill especially, so I was overtaken by many runners in this part. It’s very frustrating to know I too could be running down these parts. Knowing your body has the fitness, but an injury is hampering you I found to e very bad for my moral. My pace slowed to around 3km an hour coming down, where as I was averaging 5km an hour going uphill. I must be the only person in the race who was slower coming down than going up! I still figured I could make the cutoff time though, and that I did, crossing the finishing line in 8 hours and 39 minutes.
A great race, and although I didn’t put in a fantastic time, I was happy to finish, and I know that I could easily knock an hour off that time given my ITBS injury recovers in time for next year. Now it’s 8 weeks until CM50, my first ultra distance race, and time to rest put hat knee, stretch it out, foam role it and try to get into shape to finish within the 18 hours cutoff time!