My First Skyrun: Mt Ugo 34km Akyathon

I still had half of the race in front of me. But something about being in the clouds, at the very top just energizes you. 

Ive been running for many many years. Ive done 7 marathons and tons of shorter races. I’ve also climbed a few mountains. Last year I hit the the trails..and fell in love. I did the inaugural  xterra off-road triathlon in Cebu and qualified for the Word Champs in Maui in October, which included a 10k very tough mountain and beach run.

Then I heard of the Mt Ugo skyrun – a  running event to the top of a mountain. I figured I could walk/hike part of it, then run when I could.  So, I signed up for my very first skyrun – the Mt Ugo 34 km Akyathon.

My alarm was set around 4 am. I was out of the house and enroute to Itogon in the dark. Arrived at the starting line just 15 minutes before the start in front of the  Municipal Hall.

First thing I noticed is that  many runners were racing ultra-light – no water bottles on a hip pack or hydro packs on their back. No food either. Yikes, I couldn’t do that in the mountains.  I need water and food on me. I guess its my  little background as a mountaineer – never be out in the woods without food and water.

The race director informed us that the start from the Municipal Hall was just a “soft start” and that we were to run easy as a group down concrete road for about 1.7km which is where the trail would start.

Just before the starting horn sounded, I put my blackberry in my race belt. I planned on tweeting throughout the race via @tweetakbo. Below is the actual text of my texttweets. Some are just a few words, given that I was in the middle of a race, but for purposes of this blog, I did a  bit of editing and added some  descriptions to complete the story. The additional comments are italicized.

 

6:47 Here at the hanging bridge crossing the river.

 

 

6:50 Locals are out to welcome participants

6:52. Im at the tail-end. I think I will get an award. Most baon.

I actually had: 2 hard-boiled eggs, 2 boiled bananas,  2 cheese sandwiches, 2 peanutbutter cookies from Slice, 2 pieces banana loaf pudding from Slice, my cafe/cart in High St Central in The Fort, Taguig.

6:56 quiet out here in the rice fields. Only sound I hear are the ice cubes jiggling in my hydro pack.

 

7:06 Past 1.5 mark from trail start. Soft start on pavement was 1.7k before trail start. So, 3km na.

7:07 3km.  30k plus to go.

7:54 sorry no tweet. Was totally uphill the last hour. Had to breathe.

 

8:13 Ate 1/4th cheese sandwich after 1 hour. Eating again soon… My plan was to eat every hour on the hour to ensure sufficient nutritional intake.

8:15 5Km uphill now. Suddenly chilly.

Around 7km we hit Sitio Lusod. The villagers had come out to meet us. I knew some of them by face from my last visit to Sitio Lusod. Felt really good to see them. I was so excited to bring out my surprise for the kids… I had packed 10 small books for them. These books were written by my mom. 

9:01 At the water station. Refilled my hydropack and ate kamote. Sarap.  In a race in the mountains, you kinda feel alone. So,  it wasn’t just the food that was good, it was seeing all the people. By the way, it was a green event, meant to preserve the environment and manage our trash. No PET bottles or cups were given out. Water was poured from big containers at the water stations. 

9:08 OMG! 2 Kenyans just passed me. I have 6k plus to go to the summit. They are on their way down.

9:11 First Filipino on his way down. His name is Mario.

9:23 Sun is out. Shades are on.  Thank you God for a beautiful day! 

 


 

Breath-taking rice terraces

 

9:30 Took about 2.5 hours to 10km mark. My longest 10k ever! It has never ever taken me 2 1/2 hours to do a 21km  race but getting to this 10k mark was harder than a 21k run.

9:31 First female passed me. 10th over-all

9:50 Tess Bitbit Philippine team cycling champ just passed me. She’s running 3rd among the women

9:52. Ige Lopez just passed me.

10:11. Just ate a hard boiled egg. What I didn’t tweet is that the yolk tasted like pulvoron in my mouth. Was hard to swallow. Ekk..had to drink water to wash it down. 

10:11 Saw Leo Oracion. Mount Everest climber.

Here is where there was no tweeting. OMG! Hardest, most challenging part of the race. It felt like 2km-10km of pure uphill. No smiles. All my energy was  focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I timed my RPM, that is the revolution per minute of my stride. It was 36 then 32. To compare -on a regular run, my rpm is  at 85-90. 

For this part of the race, I hardly looked up cause everytime I did, a new trail emerged heading higher into the clouds. My friend Ging was always there ahead of me . I figured,  if he had to still keep moving forward, that means I did too. 

 

almost there…

 

10:50 Summit! Cant believe it. Freakin hardest 2km of my life EVER!

 

I finally knew we really were at the summit cause suddenly there were lots of happy voices, followed by faces. They shouted “welcome to Mt Ugo.” I realized then that I could now allow my body to collapse on the ground. So, I did.. for a solid 1 minute I just laid on the grass. And really in that short time, I felt revived. Then someone said, “maam, you’re not finished yet. The turn around is still ahead of you.” Wha???  But I was reassured that it was just a few meters away.  So I got up and went to the turn around and had the photo taken. 

…and with the Philippine flag which I couldnt quite get to fly in the right direction.

…and with my friends who made a hard race fun.

We relaxed and ate a bit…

11:25 Running down now. Was freezing at the summit. Felt so good to lie on the grass.

I didnt think it would feel this good going down knowing I still had half of the race in front of me. But something about being in the clouds, at the very top just energizes you. 

 some jumping over logs…

Under the trees…

12:58 7km of trails to go.

1:18 5k to go

1:19 All downhill now. Tough on the quads… Meanwhile, I took nibbles out of my peanut butter cookie. Sooo yummy.

 

2;02 Last 2k of trail. Then 1.7k concrete uphill to finish line

Cant believe how anti-climactic this last portion of the race had to be. You’re no longer on the trails and the freakin concrete is pretty hard on your tired feet. But worse, it is terribly steep going uphill without a single flat portion. You cant run, even if you wanted to. At least I couldn’t.

Some 400 meters or so from the finish, one of the race organizers called to us. She said we were very near and congratulated us. She told me when I see the bend, I can start running cause the finish line was just there. 

Must have had a bit of energy left cause I was able to cross the finish line running.

3:06 Crossed the finish line! Good feeling! 

time check:

3:22 All clean and dry now. Legs are sooore!

hmmm, next year ulit?

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