Sunday, May 26, 2013

Back at Jump-off…Back to Basics

This is the first time I'm posting something that I did not write.

This is an entry in the recently concluded open writing contest in a Facebook mountaineering group where I am one of the administrators. The author, Christian Kalaw, is a friend of mine. He joined me in The Second Lagataw Invitational Climb (Bakun Trio) in 2011. He is now making a living in Australia and in this write-up, he is sharing to us how mountaineering has changed his life and how it has helped him survive each day here in the Philippines and overseas! 

It’s been six months since my last climb. I’d be a fool if I said I’m not missing it.

It all began a few years ago when I had this feeling of excitement as I packed my stuff for my very first climb. A small day pack, bulky jug of water, paper plates and plastic spoons plus my casual clothes. When I set my first foot on my first summit I said to myself “kakari-reen ko to”.. And I did…somehow up to now. It changed my life and it taught me how to survive no matter where I am and under whatever circumstances. It improved everything like the simple organization of my clothes in my drawer and in my bag. It taught me how to be responsible enough to put even the smallest piece of trash into where it should belong. And when there’s no gas, my mother has even learned how to operate my camping stove. Those are just a few basic things that we do on the mountains that have a large impact on how we live our normal lives down below. For me, there’s no difference between living in a tent and in a house with a comfy sofa or a bedroom or a nice kitchen. We still can have the same dreams, the same meals and the same happiness or even more. It’s just a matter of appreciation—learning how to deal with what you have and make do with it. Communing with different people on the mountains is also a training for us to be more sensitive with whomever we meet every day. ‘Sir’ or ‘mam’ is a nice start and maybe you’ll find that ‘kiliti sa bawat isa’. Respecting others even in the city earns you respect in return.

Right now I’m living far away from the mountains, and it still feels like every day is going to be a climb for me. I have to be strong and attentive to be safe at work even if I have to stand up all day to do my job,’sa bundok nga maghapon pa naglalakad’. At night I have to cook for myself because no one will do that for me, ‘sa bundok nga kahit naulan nakakapag luto ako sa maliit na tarp sa labas’. And just before I sleep I have this sleeping bag to give me warmth on cold nights. I realized that I’m fortunate enough to have been tested under these conditions. At the end of each day I’m grateful because I survived another day. In the summit we just have this small space to step on for a great view. For me this small space is enough to see what trails I have passed by or let’s just say the problems I have solved. So that when I come back and encounter the same problem again I will now know what to do. Life is a matter of going to the top of everything. You just have to be strong and focused to achieve your goals. It’s not how fast we climb to the top, rather it’s about living it and learning from it at a slowly-but- surely pace. Right execution and a calm spirit will surely get you to the summit and back down and call it a successful one.

Mountaineering isn’t just about climbing the summit. It’s also about getting to the peak of our lives, that in the end you can proudly say ‘I’ve been tested by nature, challenged by time, scarred by circumstances, yet I still managed to get to the top’.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Moalboal Highland Endurance Run

the top 10 finishers for the 18km event

It was the least publicized and least marketed mountain race I have known, and yet it was better than the premier trailrunning event in the country! I’m talking about the recently-concluded CTU Moalboal 18K and the CTU Argao 23K back-to-back Highland Endurance Run. I knew of it just two weeks before the race and I thought my running buddy Jake had already known about it but when I told him of it last Tuesday he said he had not heard of it. The registration was P500 for both the 23K and the 18K distances. I had initially registered for the 23K event but when I read the flyer that came with my claim stub, it was indicated that the cut-off time for all distances was 3hours. I then downgraded my distance to just 18K. Jake and I availed of the free coaster ride from Cebu City Sports Complex to CTU Moalboal campus on Friday night. Jake’s friend, another ultrarunner happens to hail from Moalboal so we got free accommodation and food the night before the race. The other runners from the city were provided with cots in the campus.
the last uphill part of the race
And since it was not well-publicized, there were only a few runners at the 5:30am gunstart but these were the elites of Cebu. The prize money was bigger than those of all the other trailruns I’ve joined in Cebu. This is what the elites always watch out for! At the sound of the gun, all the male and female elite runners sped ahead of me. About three quarters of the pack were left behind. I stuck to my pace and in less than 10 minutes the elites including Jake were all out of sight. There were only two of us in the middle pack—me and the sexy Zumba instructor. She was always 20 meters ahead of me until the slope got steeper at the 6km aid station and she started to slow down. It was an uphill run until AS 12 when the road turned into a wild downhill track. This was the only race where I overtook only one runner even in the uphill segments. I was always alone on the road until I reached the finish line.
my running buddy Jake
At the finish line in Coal Mountain Resort (Argao), the warm congratulations of the very nice organizers greeted me. I came in tenth after two hours and twenty minutes. If more runners had joined, I might have been the 20th finisher. There were still food and drinks just like at the stations in every kilometer. But I couldn’t resist the swimming pool which I found so inviting. And there, I was in the company of the elites. They obviously pushed their limits in the race as I saw some of them still limping a bit. But nothing was gonna stop these elite runners as all of them still joined the 23km Argao leg the following day. 
Cebu's elite runners after the 23km Argao leg on Sunday

Jake and I discussed the Sunday event for a while but in the end, we decided to just enjoy the facilities and the free overnight accommodation at the mountain resort. We loved the thought that we had been able to run and the registration fee was given back to us (through the prize money for the 5th-10th finishers who all received P500). We were thrilled by the idea of celebrating and relaxing in the peaceful resort at night when all the other runners have gone. There was plenty of food during every meal! We had a canopy walk, we explored the tunnels and we drank in the swimming pool before the sun vanished. We also had a quick look at the animals in the resort’s mini zoo. Jake and I both felt sorry for the animals. They really need much bigger cages. At night there were only three runners (Jake, I and one Kenyan) left there among the crew.
Jake and I had the swimming pool to ourselves in the afternoon
The awarding ceremonies took place on Sunday after the breakfast and after all the runners of the Argao leg had been swept. The participants of the Moalboal leg did not come back and so there were fewer people during the meal and the awarding. It was my first time to go up the stage in a race. I know I was just lucky there were only a few runners. Still I felt happy for the achievement.

The Highland Endurance Run was the most organized race I have ever joined. The secretariat would reply to your calls and text messages before, during and after the race. There was a free coaster ride from the city to the race venue. There was plenty of food. There was free accommodation for the winners who had to wait for the awarding ceremonies on the second day. And the race organizers and the crew at the mountain resort were very accommodating and warm. The results and photos were up right after the race. And so I promised to bring at least twenty friends next year. Who would want to miss this event?!
plenty of food after the race

YOU deserve a holiday!
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