On Nuts, Ruts, and a Whole Lotta Guts
This is a guest post by my teammate and friend Javy Olives on his recent trail ultramarathon, the Clark-Miyamit Falls Trail Ultramarathon 50miles.
The crazy idea of diving headfirst into a Trail Ultramarathon, with 4 weeks to spare, was my fault. Completely. That much I admit.
When my ‘A’ race for the year, Enervon Activ 226 was cancelled due to the massive earthquake that hit Bohol in October, I started scouring online, looking for something to do. Another triathlon perhaps? Nahh… An Ultramarathon? Hmmmm…Interesting. A TRAIL ULTRAMARATHON? Now we’re talkin’!
A few text messages later, I had gotten both Drew & Andy on board. Woooohoooo! CM50 here we come!
CM50 is the Clark-Miyamit Falls Trail Ultra. It takes runners from Clark Airbase in Pampanga to the beautiful Miyamit Falls in Porac via Aeta trails. The course has over 4,000m in elevation gain…that’s like climbing Baguio 3 times. There were two distances – a 60k and a 50 mile.
We had 4 weeks til raceday, and only a half-marathon base to show. And so Andy came up with a plan – a ‘mini’ weekday block, consisting of 1-2hr runs 3 days in a row, with lots of hill repeats and then back-to-back long runs on weekends. Quickly we had made the transition from Triathlete to Runner. The bikes got parked, never to be seen in the 4 weeks that followed.
Crash Course in Trail Running
Personally, I had only really done one real trail run, the Xterra Trail 22k in Timberland in 2010. I didn’t even own legit trail shoes. Weekends were then spent in Timberland trying to adapt best we could to the conditions and terrain we would face on race day.
With Majo Liao (2012 CM50 Champ) & Aldean Lim (CM50 Champion and Course record holder) (Photo: Drew Arellano)
One Saturday, we did a 3hr run around the Blue and Green trails with Aldean Lim, who would eventually set a course record and win the 50mile race. That evening, we had decided to do another 3-4hr trail run the following day. And so the following morning, we began our run, led by Trail Master Gene Olvis & Dabobong delos Angeles. What we didn’t realize was we were in for an Adventure. The supposed 3-4hr run had turned into a 9hr expedition, from Timberland to Wawa Damn in Montalban, thru uninhabited mountains and rivers. Adding insult to injury was the fact that I wasn’t in trail shoes, and that both the soles of my shoes had fallen off 2hrs into the run! Until this day, most of the day remains a haze…but would prove to beneficial come race day. Weekend 1, CHECK!
Having Coffee 7hrs into the 9hr Adventure Run (Photo: Aldean Lim)
What was left of my shoes (Photo: Drew Arellano)
The following weekend, we did the same 3hr Trail run on saturday, but then decided to run on the road on Sunday. I texted Drew “Let’s run 42k.”. “Sure”, he replied. The 42k went by without much fanfare, and the legs felt great too. It was then when I started feeling pretty confident.
Guntime was at 1am on a Sunday morning, and so the plan was to try and rest most of the day Saturday, then drive straight to Clark Saturday evening late enough to catch the race briefing at midnight. Resting was close to impossible, and so with much anxiety, and 4 cups of coffee, we had made it to the starting line. As we lay in the grass of the Clark Parade grounds awaiting the start, I could not help but smile, as I would once again venture into the unknown. Unlike other races, we were completely on our own with regards to navigating the course. We were shown little orange markings which would be mark the right path. Simply put, if you are not seeing any more of these markings, you are lost, so backtrack until you find one, then proceed.
And We’re Off
The race began without any pomp. A hundred or so of us jogged ever so calmly into the darkness as the horn sounded off. The first 4km took us from the parade grounds to the entrance of the Sacobia river, thru paved roads. The next 5km proved a lot more difficult, as we we running on a riverbed, with rocks and ankle-deep water. Navigation was not easy, as markings were only visible every kilometer or so. We arrived in Aid Station 1 (AS1) as we exited the riverbed.
The next 20km was a combination of some very technical trails, with some rope climbing, and mostly rolling terrain. After 3hrs of running, we had reached AS3. It was still dark as we began the mountain assault. The next stage featured a mountain assault – close to 1,000 meters elevation gained over 10km over rough terrain. The next 2 hours was a mix of power hiking, scrambling and very little running. As we reached the top, the sun began to rise, and for the first time that day, I started to marvel at the beauty that surrounded us.
From AS4, it was a technical 1.5km descent to Miyamit Falls. It was there where I really appreciated the grip and protection the Berghaus Vapour Claw provided. I was confident and surefooted, even over moist and mossy rocks and boulders. We reached the turnaround point after about 5 and a half hours. We were not in any rush, so we took a dip in the pool, and took photos and videos, as each of us carried a GoPro.
My trusty Bergaus Vapour Claw
After appreciating the view, and the chilly cold water of the falls, we proceeded to head back home. By this time the sun was shining brightly, and so visibility was no longer a problem when navigating and finding your footing. After climbing back up to AS4, we proceed to run the 10km downhill to AS3, and had to stop many times to take pictures and goof around.
At the chilly and beautiful Miyamit Falls
Appreciating the beautiful views at the peak
7 hours into the race, and we were back in AS3, having already surpassed the marathon distance mark. We were in uncharted territory. The volunteers in AS3 were so fired up when we got there, it felt like we were rockstars. They pumped us up so much we took off at a sub 5min/km, which didn’t last so long. We then ran thru the same route, but this time in daylight. At around the 50km mark, we had caught 2 runners, putting us into 4th and 5th place respectively. I was starting to fade, but Drew was feeling good, so we decided to go at our own pace.
WU salute on top of a tractor (Photo: Drew Arellano)
A few kilometers later, I had gone off-course and lost my way. I did not realize that I had missed a turn until a few kilometers later, and took quite a while getting my bearings, and finding my way back. 9 hours into the race and I was running empty – literally and figuratively. I had emptied out my Camelbak, and my energy was at an all-time low. Mentally however, I knew I was going to finish, come what may.
I hobbled into AS1, sat down, and tried to gather myself. I attempted to eat some bread, but I could not swallow it. All I could take was Coke, and so I just started downing glass after glass. As I left the last aid station, tackling the last 9km, I started to feel a little better. Rain started to pour down, making it cooler, but also more difficult. The 5km through the now ankle deep Sacobia river was tricky. Heavy & wet shoes. Slippery rocks. Tired feet.
Home Sweet Home
Exiting the Sacobia river felt really good, as I knew that all I had I had left to traverse was 4km of paved roads. A little over 11hrs later, I had reached the finish line. Very tired, yet very fulfilled. I was met at the finish line by Drew, my wife Hannah, and my training buddies Levy & Elmer. I had accomplished what I set out on doing. The icing on the cake was finishing 7th overall, and Drew grabbing 3rd overall.
Headstand at the CM50 Finish (Photo: Hannah Olives)
with Levy, Drew & Elmer (Photo: Hannah Olives)
I have had my fair share of dark times in races, especially in 2 of the 3 Full Ironmans I have completed, but I can confidently say, that without a doubt, this is the most difficult thing I have ever done. I always have and always will have respect for the Ultramarathon.
Would I do it again? HELL YEAH.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR
Javy Olives picked up running immediately after a paparazzi photo showed him in his gluttonous best in YES! Magazine. 40 pounds lighter, this runner/triathlete turned endurance junkie has completed 1 Ultramarathon, 3 Full Ironmans, 8 70.3’s & 6 marathons (3 of them an Ironman). Recently, he has been going off-road and dabbling in other Ultra-Endurance events.