The CM50 was my fourth race in Philippines in 2013! But I was fearful. Preparation to the lead-up of the race was difficult as I had to complete the 守夜 for my dad's wake from Monday early morning till the cremation on Wednesday morning. During this time, I slept about 6 hours from the time I woke up for 屏东 Marathon on Sunday (5am) to when I finally got to rest after the cremation and sea burial ceremony on Wednesday (3pm). Luckily, I was quite efficient in preparing my gears for races. I arrived in Clark in the wee hours of Saturday morning and slept through till noon! After lunch, I went to prepare my drop-bags before I napped again till dinner time, where I met Alex and Simon. Both of them shared with me the details of the course as they had completed the race last year. In fact, they came in top 3 in their respective categories - Alex was third in the 60km race while Simon was second in the 50 miles race! The information was extremely useful as we would be starting the race in the dark. After dinner, they sent me back to the hotel and arranged to pick me up at midnight since the race for the 50 miles would be starting at 1am, Sunday.
Holiday Inn - Nearest Hotel to Start Line; Carbo Loading Lunch (Bottom L) & Dinner at Cafe Mesa (R)!
Just past midnight, Alex and Simon drove up to the Holiday Inn driveway. I hopped into their car with my drop bags and off we went to the start line about 2km away (by car). :p The runners were streaming into the race start one by one. I quickly handed in my 2 drop bags. Then I saw another runner from Singapore - Lay Peng who would be attempting the 60km race. I also met up with Cheryl and Rose, both of them attempting the 50 miles race like me. Soon, the RD commenced his race briefing and flagged off the race promptly at 1am.
Start of Clark-Miyamit Falls Trail Ultra!
The CM50 Course Map - Courtesy from the Official CM50 Website!
The CM50 Course Map - Courtesy from the Official CM50 Website!
There was a very detailed course description given on the event website. Unfortunately, I was not a word-person and I got lost while trying to read the various directions and visualise how the different places looked like when we supposed to turn here or there. Starting the race in the dark didn't help since there was only so much I can see using my headlamp. Hence, whatever Alex and Simon shared with me earlier was extremely useful. Also, the runners would be running almost together at the start of the race. I felt that I shouldn't get lost. :) Even if I was lost, there should be other runners around that I could follow.
Start to AS1 (Segment: 7km / Total: 7km)
This section at the start was the easiest as it comprised of approximately 3km on road, 2km on trail, and 2km on the river bed. The course was exactly what Alex and Simon had described to me. As it was very early in the race, I was in good company. Crossing the river bed proved to be a little more difficult as there was slight current. But with the experience from Mt Pinatubo, I reached AS1 with a little difficulty. :)
AS1 to AS2 (Segment: 9km / Total: 16km)
This section was tougher with more ascent and descent. The good thing about running in the dark was that you couldn't really see how much further you need to climb up or down. By then, I already forgotten most of what Alex and Simon told me but I still recall the right turn towards a flight of steps. After that, the terrain was mostly rolling hills till I needed the use of ropes to climb down! (More on the ropes for the return trip later on).
AS2 to AS3 (Segment: 7km / Total: 23km)
By the time I left AS2, the runners were pretty much spread out. But I managed to hang on with a small group of runners. I was near the front runners when we all stopped as we are unable to see any blinking lights or reflective markers. We retreated and tried to look around but to no avail. I decided to use common sense since there was a path on the left where I could run. At the end of the path, about 150~200m from where we got "lost", I saw a reflective marker and shouted at the group. From that point, the group of us ran pretty much together till we reached AS3, where the volunteers retrieved my drop bag. There, I left my super duper Black Diamond headlamp, re-stocked my milo, gel and pushed on.
AS3 to AS4 (Segment: 7km / Total: 30km)
The route to AS4 was straight forward as there was only one way. However, more effort was required as it comprised of a number of climbs, though on easier terrain. I managed to catch a few runners on my way up. Soon, day broke and I could enjoy myself looking at the scenery. But reaching AS4 proved to be tougher than I thought although I enjoyed myself jogging and hiking up the hills. At one point, I thought I reached the AS4 but it was a false alarm as there some hikers were resting around the area with their pick-up, who cheered me on. Luckily, I was really near and eventually reached at AS4 at 6:41am - 5hrs 41mins for 30km! Slow as snail! Just as I left AS4 for the peak, I met Alex emerging from the waterfall! :)
Aid Station 4 - the Aid Station where Runners Left for the Peak or the Waterfall!
AS4 to Peak / Waterfall / AS4 (Segment Total: 20km / Total: 50km)
I passed Cheryl before I reached AS4, but she overtook me after she did a superb replenishment for her stuff and was very quick out of AS4 to the peak. I reckoned that the distance to and from the peak should be around 20km, which meant that one-way to the peak should be 10km. With the cut-off at the peak set at 11am, I thought I had plenty of time to make it. Nevertheless, I pushed myself during the runnable section and jogged or hiked during the rocky segment of the race. Then I saw the leaders ran past me back down to AS4, including Simon in 4th position! I slowly worked my way, met Jonel and Cheryl on their way down and eventually reached the peak at 8:54am! 2hrs 13mins for 10km!
The Scenic Section of the Route to the Peak!
The weather at the peak was nice and cool. There were mist all over and I felt as though I was in Genting Highlands. The volunteers asked me what I needed. I took a gel and requested them to help me disposed of the wrapper. I didn't stay long as I was not sure if I could finish the race within the cut-off. On my way down from the peak, I decided to put on my water-proof jacket as it was getting chilly. But after a short while, I was all heated up from the running. Halfway down, I felt a blister forming in my foot so I stopped to adjust my socks. To my horror, I saw a serious blister forming on my left big toe. :( As I didn't bring along my needle and foot powder, I was unable to prick and dry the blister. I put my socks back on, put on another layer of spare socks that I brought and continued running. I managed to pass a couple of runners before I reached AS4.
On My Way to the Peak!!!
I did not stop at AS4 as the distance to and from the waterfall was about 2km. Half-way after I made my way down to the waterfall, I met Rose who was on her way back to AS4. Nearer to the waterfall, the terrain became more difficult. The sound of the waterfall was also very deceiving - sound so near but yet so far! I eventually reached the waterfall at 11:21am - 2hrs 27mins for a 11km jaunt! This was way too slow! But I decided to spend some time there and enjoy the waterfall. I also had a chat with Cheryl. After a 5min break, I decided to press on. The return back to AS4 was much easier as it was going up. And I reached AS4 at about 11:45am. I replenished my milo and gel. Just before I left, a fellow runner gave me a packet of rice and a packet of meat! I decided not to consume the meat as it had quite a lot of fatty stuff which I didn't like.
AS4 to AS3 (Segment: 7km / Total: 57km)
I left for AS3 with the packet of rice. It was a full serving of rice. So I decided to eat and take it easy till I felt okie to run. The rice tasted very good even though it was just plain rice! After every mouthful, I would walk for about 5mins before I consumed another mouthful. This went on for about 30mins. I felt energised and full of energy! I managed to pick up my pace and ran as hard as I could. I caught up with Rose. She didn't look good and she was walking in her sandals (or barefoot). :( I told her to take things easy before I continued bombing down the trails since the return leg was mostly downhill. When I reached AS3, a few runners had just refueled and getting ready to leave. I took out a fresh pair of socks from my drop bag, changed and left.
The Scenery From AS4 to AS3! Noticed the Fog!
AS3 to AS2 (Segment: 7km / Total: 64km)
I had company for this stretch of the "trail" - which was mainly made of cement pavement. I slowed down as the heat was getting unbearable. The other runners went further and further ahead. Luckily the stretch after the 2 underpasses was a big open area so I could still see the rest from a distance. I tried to close the gap but they were on a good pace and too fast for me. :( I had no recollection of what the route looks like earlier because we covered that segment during the night previously! Eventually, I lost sight of the runners. But then, I suddenly recalled the stretch where I was standing - that was the stretch when we got lost earlier in the night when I decided to move forward to check out the trail. I knew I was very close to AS2, which I reached eventually at 2:26pm. I saw a few runners resting there but they were not the same runners whom I lost tracked of earlier. I had a quick refuel and left.
AS2 Aid Station!
AS2 to AS1 (Segment: 9km / Total: 73km)
The 3 guys caught up with me as soon as I left AS2. :( And they passed me for good after that although I managed to stay on the heel of one of them (I think). The terrain was difficult which I couldn't recall at all. I tried my best to keep him in sight and I followed him throughout till I reached AS1. However, I did recall the very steep slope which I had to use the rope provided to make my way down. What I couldn't believe was it was that steep! I climbed halfway and was so tired that I had to rest. I turned back to see how high I was which was a bad mistake. I then turned up to see how far I had to climb which was an equally lousy idea. :( Luckily, I didn't have to see how steep this was earlier. Otherwise, I would waste a lot of time trying to see which was the best way to descend. Eventually, I managed to pull myself up to the top and continue. The next prominent place was the flight of steps which I had to descend. Then it was all the way straight to AS1. Before reaching AS1, we passed 3 runners.
The Terrain From AS2 to AS1 Which I Couldn't Recall!
The Other Scenery from AS2 to AS1!
AS1 to Finish Line (Segment: 7km / Total: 80km)
I was totally tired when I reached AS1. I knew I could make the cut-off but didn't fancy running back especially along the river bed. So I decided to walk. However, as I had left my Black Diamond headlamp inside my drop bag back in AS3 earlier that morning, I had to ensure I reached the road as I was only carrying a less powerful headlamp. Although it was only about 2km plus, it took me forever to cover the river bed. Then it was another 2km plus on the trail. It was getting dark and I met some local on their way home. This was much easier than the river bed and I was out of it faster than I thought. Once I hit the road, I decided to walk the remaining distance as I the blister on my left foot was hurting. Also, my stomach acid reflux had become bad. Luckily, a fellow runner offer some pills to sooth things. He encouraged me to run with him and his friend but I just didn't have the energy. They left and I was all alone and a few more runners overtook me after that. About 500m from the finishing, I managed to summon my strength and ran with another runner (Dennis Lopez) to cross the line in a time of 17hrs 36mins!
CM50 is a tough race although most of the ascend and descend were manageable, except the extremely steep section between AS1 and AS2. Luckily, there were ropes available for the runners to pull them up and down the slope. Also, the segment on the river bed was very taxing for me. This was one of the must do race in the Philippines and my personal favourite segment was from AS4 to the peak where I enjoyed the cool weather and rolling hills. I also enjoyed running to the waterfall although the terrain near the waterfall was slippery. For those who wish to take on the 60km, you would still get to see the waterfall but not the peak. I was glad that I could check this event off my race list. :)