The Mapawa Trail Marathon was held on the last week of Oct 2013, just 2 weeks after Mt Pinatubo 50km. As with traveling to other trail races in Philippines like Baguio and Nuvali, etc, traveling to the start/finish line of Mapawa Trail Marathon was no easy task too. Thankfully, with the help of Blue-b Tradioandsons and Van Chiu Yap, I was able to arrive Mapawa Nature Park on Saturday afternoon. This was after breakfast at Jolibee, shopping at the Ayala Centrio Mall, picking up of the race pack from the mall, and lunch with their local friends. The race site was really remote. Once you were here, it was impossible to go elsewhere unless you had your own vehicle. Blue-b and I went to explore the area. It was very quiet. There were some horses roaming in the area. Workers were setting up the banners for the race start. Van Chiu drove us back a few hundred meters to the accommodation block where we checked-in. I went over to the ladies dorm, picked a bed and laid out my race gear. Then I napped till dinner time where I joined Blue-b. After dinner, I went back to bed. I saw lightning flashed across the sky and hoped the weather would hold out.
Arriving @ Jolibee for Breakfast; Collection of Race Bib @ Ayala Centrio; Meeting up with Friends; Carbo-loading Lunch!
At the Start of the Mapawa Trail Run!
The race was scheduled to start at 5:00am although the website stated a start time of 4:00am. Even though Blue-b was not running, he went to the race start as Altra and Elete Electrolytes were one of the sponsors for the race. At the start, I met Bimbo Uy and his wife. He would be running the half marathon while his wife would wait for him. I also saw Rose Buenconsejo whom I first met at the Cebu All Women's 50km run few years back. She would be running in the full marathon like me. At 5:00am, the runners were still standing around the start, waiting for the flagged off. :( Then at 5:10am, the announcement came - to gather us around the stage for one last briefing!
With Blue-b, Bimbo Uy and his Wife (L Top - Photo courtesy of Mapawa Run); Rose & Me (L Bottom); Race Brief (R Top); Race Start (R Bottom)
The RD reminded the runners where to run: for runners running the 42km, first, we were required to do an out-and-back loop at the hut - see Point 1. Then, we would keep to the right of the Y-Junction - see Point 2 and run towards the open area - see Point 3. We would run back to the Y-Junction and cover the left portion of the route by running an out-and-back section towards a house at the hill top - see Point 4. When we reached back at the Y-Junction, we would run towards the open area again for the 2nd out-and-back on this section - see Point 5 before returning to the start. But wait! That was not the end yet! We had to cover the earlier out-and-back section to the hut - see Point 6 before completing the race - see Point S/E! The race was eventually flagged of at 5:15am.
There were confusion right at the start even though we were told to make a right turn. I made the correct turn but when someone shouted (not sure at those who went the wrong way or right way), I made the mistake of running back even though I was briefed beforehand to turn right immediately after the race start. Well, I couldn't fault myself for being worried especially if most of the Filipino runners were running in a different direction. :p But once all runners were on the same route, I found myself dropping from the lead pack to the back. It was rare that I was in the lead of a race! :) Although aid station were available every 3km, I wore my Ultimate Direction hydration bag. The section to Point 1 was rolling hills which I enjoyed. But after the turn-around point for the 5km runners, the trail got muddy due to the heavy rain the night before. It was difficult to run with the mud sticking to your shoes. Although it was a long descent down to the hut, I was having fun. I wasn't afraid going down this time because it was not slippery at all. Volunteers were giving out rubber band at the turn-around. After I gotten mine, I went to the side to remove the mud from my shoes.
The U-Turn Point For The 5km Runners (Left); The 21km and 42km Runners Continued On Muddy Terrain!
The Turn-Around For The 21km and 42km Runners!
I continued my run back to the junction where most runners made the wrong turn and turned right as instructed. The fast runners for the 5km were already done with the race. This stretch of the trail was mostly uphill, which although I enjoyed, wasn't able to put in any speed. Before I reached the 21km turn-around point, I saw a few guys zooming towards me on their way back. I knew I was on a tight timeline as I had to catch my plane at 4:30pm. :( So I didn't dare to take many photos. At the 21km aid station, I requested to deposit my headlamp as it was getting heavy. The volunteers obliged even though it was not within their responsibility to safeguard runner's stuff. I thanked them and left. A few kilometers after the turn-around point, where we reached higher ground and were able to see the surrounding mountains, I had to run slower or even stopped to take in the nice views! That's why I enjoyed doing trail races - a chance to see beautiful scenery I would otherwise not be able to see if I were to run on road. I passed a lady runner running the marathon. Then she overtook me when I stopped to take photos, before I passed her for good.
Aid Station Near The Start
Aid Station & Volunteers @ 21km Turn-Around Point!
Great Views Of The Surrounding Mountains After 21km Turn-around Point!
I pushed on and reached the Y-Junction (Point 2) not long after. When you were enjoying yourself, time tends fly and I seemed to cover greater distance than I noticed. Or maybe not exactly. After a quick refill of water, I ran towards the open area at Point 3. Not long after I saw a guy running towards my direction. He could be one of the leaders of the men's race. If he wasn't the leader, that only meant that the leader had already past the Y-Junction for the second time towards the house on the hill top (Point 4). I was eager to see how far behind I was behind the ladies leading the race. And it was only possible on such out-and-back course. There wasn't any markers along the trail but it was impossible to get lost. There was only one way to run! Even though there were side tracks, they lead up to the same trail eventually. :) There were also a couple of volunteers on horseback. I caught up with a runner. Then another runner. And another runner. I struck up a conversation with one of them who was going for the CM50 in Nov. CM50 - a 50 miles qualifying trail race for UTMB with a cut-off time of 18 hours. As I would be running the CM50 this year, I tried to get some info from him, who completed last year's race within few minutes of the cut-off.
Y-Junction at Point 2 Where We Would Pass It 4 Times!
Volunteers on Horse Back (Top Left & Bottom Right); A Runner; En Route to Open Area Point 3/5
Then I saw a lady running towards me! She should be the leader of the race! I was very excited. Soon after, I saw another lady ran past me. And then a third lady. I lost track of how many ladies were in front from me by the time I reached the turn-around open area (Point 3/5). Could be 4 or 5 or 6. But the most important thing was that I remembered who were the leaders. After I took a rubber band from the volunteers, I made my way to the Y-Junction at Point 2. The stretch just after the open area was extremely difficult to walk, let alone run. The mud was almost dried so it stuck onto my running shoes. I had to stop to dig out the mud using a branch as my shoe was getting very heavy with all those mud stuck beneath it. After clearing the mud, I ran/walked to try to catch up to the lady. I knew if I caught up with one, it would move me up a position, and I managed to do that just before the Y-Junction. I didn't stop at the Y-Junction as I still had water. This stretch to the house at the top of the hill was not that long. I could see where the house was after making the turn from the Y-Junction but I could also see the uphill route!
Near Start of The Race Before Reaching The Mountains (Left) and Power-walking On The Mountain With No Shade (Right) - Photos by Runroo
Finally Reaching The Open Area @ Point 3/5!
I saw a runner passing me back for his 2nd loop towards the open area and another one coming down from the top of the hill. I powered myself up and sat there to catch my breadth when I reached the top. It was 9:30am and by now, the sun was blazingly hot. I felt hungry and ate a gel - either I didn't eat enough for breakfast (I had a bun) or I had put in much effort to reach where I was. After getting my third rubber band, I headed downhill. On my way down, I met the lady whom I overtook earlier. I refilled my water at the Y-Junction and went back for my 2nd/last out-and-back loop at the open area (Point 3/5). For this 2nd loop, I met Rose again. I also saw other runners but by then, I was not sure if that was their first loop or second loop. What I did know was when the first four ladies ran past me towards the finishing line direction. It spurred me on as I sensed that I had closed the gap. I felt that I had great chance to pass the last two ladies as they looked tired. I pushed myself but not an all-out effort. When I reached the turn-around point, I caught up with another lady, who decided to take a rest under the shade.
On My Way To House On Hilltop!
Reaching the Turn-Around at Open Area for the 2nd Time (Left); Aid Station Along Home Stretch!
I took the fourth rubber band and headed out immediately. I seemed to be able to manoeuvre the muddy area better for the second time. In my excitement, I went off-track. Luckily, someone shouted at me and I managed to retrace my steps. I thanked him before and I powered on. Just before the Y-Junction I managed to caught up with two another ladies (or perhaps just one). My next target was at the 21km turn-around aid station where I left my headlamp earlier in the day. I also ate my remaining gel. By now, I knew I was running in third place and I wanted to put in some distance between myself and the ladies whom I just passed earlier. I was able to put in a good pace as it was mainly downhill. I enjoyed running this stretch very much.
Mapawa Trail Marathon - near Y-Junction (Point 2)!
Soon, I arrived at a junction with volunteers! They were all very excited to see me. One of them confirmed that I was indeed running in third position. I thanked them and turned left to do my last out-and-back loop of 5km. When I reached the aid station I saw after making the turn, I took off my hydration pack and left it on the ground. After a half a cup of water, I picked up my pace. By now, I was on fire. I kept pushing and pushing as it was really nice running on rolling hills. But somehow, I didn't see the two leaders. I thought I should see them by now as they were quite a head of me. But I didn't see them. Even after I past the aid station (for the 5km turn-around), I still didn't see them. I was very close to reaching the turn-around at the hut when I saw them just ahead of me running together down the long descent to the hut! Wow! I didn't know I was so close to them! We passed each other on my way down while they were on the way up.
After I picked up my last rubber band, I power-walked up the ascent. By the time I reached the top, I felt dizzy. I knew I wasn't able to catch up with them. I decided to take a short break and not push myself too hard, knowing my past experience of fainting. Few minutes later, I started running after feeling much better. On my way back, I met the next lady. I had about a lead of 1km so I knew as long as I didn't walk, I should be home in third. I also met a group of guys running the last loop. Even though I had about a km to go, all of them congratulated me. At the last aid station, I picked up my hydration bag, ran all the way back and completed the race in 8hrs 21mins, 7mins behind the eventual champion. We had a simple award ceremony as by then, most runners were long gone. The RD presented us our respective trophies and prizes. I was extremely happy as it was not an easy race. Perhaps I could even have been 2nd or 1st if I had not stopped for taking so many photos. But end of the day, I was happy with the photos taken and my prize. :) I was glad to have come to Mapawa Nature Park to run the race and made more friends here in the Philippines.
My Prize: Drylite Micro Towel, A Trophy (for 3rd place), A Finisher Medal and Cash of 1,000 Peso
From Left: Claire Cadelina Paner (2nd); Flordemay Dagahusan (1st); Me (3rd)