Bravehearts is a “newbie-friendly” race… as long as you can endure the first 3.5 kilometers climb worth 400 meters of elevation. The view does make up for the arduous task of hitting the peak of Mount Susong Dalaga as it gives you a summit view and a long ridge view of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range.
I’ve checked online on what to expect at Bravehearts and I found the tiny image at MGM Production website. The thing is even with a newbie-friendly tag, you don’t expect an easy race that’s called “Bravehearts” and of course, MGM Production Races always have a trap in their races. It’s a 3.5 kilometer climb to start the race with about 400 meters of elevation. That’s the catch so be brave little one and hustle for that really long climb. Honestly, I’m really looking forward to the climb as I am trying to increase my climbing threshold. The plan is to go steady and consistent on the climbs and then attack the descents.
Race Map and Elevation Profile
Race starts at Palo Alto Clubhouse and proceeds to a grueling 3.5 kilometer climb to the peak of Mount Susong Dalaga worth about 400 meters of elevation. The route then descends for the next 1.5 kilometers and goes rolling for the next 2 kilometers. The race shifts to a descending single track trails for the next 2 kilometers before being back to the main road heading to the finish line.
We arrived early enough to get our kits and listen to the briefing. It’s a whole new trail and I’m still thinking if there will be surprises in the trail aside from that really long climb. I positioned myself at the back since I wanted to start slow and easy as the first 3.5 kilometers would be a climbfest. The plan was to maintain a consistent pace and keep moving.
At the start, I just kept a good brisk walking pace on the first kilometer, which were still on paved roads. While the energy level was there, I could feel that my legs were aching from the effort of the climb. That’s one of the challenge for this trail since you’re immediately on the climb and won’t have enough time for the legs to warm up. I braved the pain and just resumed the consistent pace. I used my trekking pole on the climb though I’d be setting it aside on the descents. The climbs were endless as one climb led to another. I would checked the altitude using the Suunto Spartan Sports and would count down the remaining meters of climbing and kilometers of distance. The second kilometer was probably the steepest stretch with about 150 meters of elevation.
I’ve hit the Aid Station at kilometer 2.5 and ate one hopia before proceeding with the climb. From this point, it’s just about 100 meters of elevation left before hitting the summit. I resumed my pace and just was consistent. No stopping except when I have to give way to descending runners. At about 3 kilometers, you’d see the view of Mount Susong Daga and it was beautiful. The next 500 meters was a short descent followed by a really steep climb, which had me on all fours just to reach the summit.
After crawling my way over a 200 meter steep stretch to the summit, I was amazed by the view. The summit had the Sierra Mountain Range as part of its backdrop and you can see a lot of ridges. It was really cold and windy in the summit so after a few snapshots, I went on with the race. Up next was running around ridges surrounding the mountain before going back to the main route. When I hit km 4 mark, I packed my trekking poles and went on to speed up on the descent. I reached the aid station after 1 kilometer of running and headed to the next part of the Race.
I didn’t stop anymore in the aid station as my Amihan vest was still loaded in hydration. The next two kilometers were rolling terrains. There were some flat surfaces. There were some descents. There were some climbs. I went fast on the flats and descent and brisked walk the climbs. It felt nice to finally have gravity in my side this time. There were also some scenic pockets on this stretch as we were going around the mountain. There was another aid station before the long descents starts.
There was about 500 meters flat stretch before the the trails went downwards. This was the time to attack the descent. The attack was short though as it turned out the single track were congested and there was a long line of runners going at the same pace. I joined the large group of runners all going at the same pace. The line became even longer as some runners were able to catch up with our group. I’ll take the slower pace and try to speed up when the trails widen. We went at this pace for the next two kilometers.
The trails started to widen at approaching the 10th kilometer. Everybody went to speed up on this stretch as everybody felt fresh after the congested part of the trail. I went on to push this effort on the trails and hitting the paved grounds with 1 kilometer to go. I always feel the drastic hardening of the surface when the trails shift to paved grounds. So I walked it off a bit just to have my legs adjusted to the harder surface and then went on to push the pace until the finish line. I did enjoy the challenge, the views and the fast trails. Great Job DBB and MGM Production.