Cordillera Mountain Run was a key race for me. It was a beautiful course with the mountains and Agno river enveloped by the clouds. The climb felt endless but the scenic masterpiece around you made the struggle worth it. It’s a character-defining race and I’m glad I was able to dig deep to survive this one. #CordilleraMountainRun #KeepItWild
Cordillera Mountain Run
I really enjoyed the run, the views and the brotherhood at last year’s Cordillera Mountain Run. Joining this one was an easy decision. I shifted to a different training regimen this time by focusing on trail time and elevation gain. I don’t have much climbing threshold so I need to focus on that. It was a fun journey as it gave me a better appreciation of the trail and it helped me be stronger on the climbs. I also was able to do a recon of the route last month, which helped a lot in plotting my race strategy for this one. It’s gonna be a tough one but it would surely be another epic experience.
Race Route and Elevation Profile
The race starts at the covered court in Dalupirip and heads to the hanging bridge and single track paved roads heading to the main road for the first two kilometers. It goes through about 3 kilometers of rolling roads before heading to the river trails for the next kilometer going to the hanging bridge. It goes on a mix of dirt roads, rough roads and rocky paths by the river for the next 2.5 kilometers. The trail then goes uphill for the next 2.5 kilometers worth 900 meters of elevation gain for the u-turn slot at the top of the hill. The route then goes back using the same route.
I was in Dalupirip the day before the race as I was able to get a home stay around 4 kilometers away from the race venue. I was able to attend the briefing the day before and I got to remember the task at hand, scale about 900 meters of elevation in the last 2.5 kilometers before the u-turn. I’ve divided the race in manageable parts, 5 Kilometers of rolling roads, 3.5 kilometers of river trails and the 2.5 kilometers killer climb before the u-turn. If I survive the climb then the rest of the race is routine.
Dalupirip was a beautiful site. It had the Agno River, who flowed mightily below the mountain range. It had both a lowland and high altitude view of the towering mountains. It had the isolated laid back feel that keeps you more in touch with nature. It had the exciting hanging bridges that’s can keep your heartbeat raising as you traverse them. It had the trail running community up for another round of challenge in the mountains of the Cordillera.
The race started early at 4 AM with both the 21 Kilometers and 50 kilometers category starting at the same time. It was a good decision to start at 4 AM since it gets extra hot in Dalupirip in the morning. It was nice to start as a pack as you get to interact with others too. I paced with Risha and Marky who were doing 21K and August and Doc Jason who were doing the 50K. We started slow then we tried to speed up a bit heading to the hanging bridge on the first kilometer. It’s always a challenge crossing hanging bridges, which was extra shaky because of the volume of runners crossing. It then shifts to the single track paved roads heading to the main road. The climbs were at brisk walk pace and the descents were at running pace.
We started to speed up on the main roads. We stayed steady on the climb and ran the descents. You can feel the humidity already even this early which made the climbs more of a struggle. It really helped that I’ve did my recon here a month ago so I know when to speed up and when to hold. This was the time to speed up as its on paved grounds. The surface shifted to river trails after 5 kilometers on the road, which was run-able so we maintained our pace here. There’s about a kilometer of river trails, which included the aid station before the hanging bridge. The second hanging bridge was much sturdier having thin wooden planks supporting the steps.
After crossing the bridge, I started pulling down my pace as I want my heart rate relaxed before I start with the long climb. I’m also conditioning my mind for the mental battle up ahead. I kept saying to my mind that it’s ok to run slow, just not to run lazy. I brought out my trekking pole, placed my head lamp in my bag and brought out my Oakleys. I then went on to the river trails, which had a mix of dirt roads, rough roads and rocky paths. It was run-able so I still tried to be quick on this stretch before slowing down a kilometer into the climb. I was starting to reserve my energy for the climb.
There was water before the climb so I took the chance to take my carbgel for the energy boost. I did a part of the climb during the recon and it was a difficult one. The game plan was to climb a 100 meter at a time then rest and that was still too exhausting. It’s really difficult to get your second wind once you can’t keep the heart rate from slowing down. We (Me, Risha and Marky) took the chance for a few photos in the climb. It was a really scenic climb as the view below was just a perfect symmetry of raw nature being majestic.
About 500 meters into the climb while I was resting, I met Jonel Mendoza, Frontrunner EIC, a trail master and organizer. He’s been a veteran of so many races and when he was in front of me, I followed his pace. It was steady, easy and consistent. I paced with him for the rest of the climb. Since I’ve also joined and also help promoted his races, there were so many talking points. He was also more appreciative of the trails as he was trying to look for familiar trails in the area. We were slowly and consistently inching our way to the long climb. It was really great to look around as the the higher we get, the more awesome the views get.
I was learning so much from Jonel on proper pacing and the trails. That’s really a good way to spend your time while on the climb. I just looked straight ahead instead of up as it would just make the climb feel longer. I never thought that I would go through a climb as long and as steep as this without stopping since it’s among my weak points. One climb led to another but we were able to sustain our pace and even pass some of the people on the climb. I’m happy with my effort here. It felt like forever but we’ve finally hit the u-turn. Jonel would be on his way to the 50K while I would be on my way back. Surprisingly, I had a decent climbing time.
It was nice to see Camp Alpha peeps again. We were just closely bundled on the climb that we were able to see each other at the turning point for the 21 kilometer runners (for me, Risha and Marky) and a short stop for the 50 kilometer runners (August and Doc Jason). I stayed on top for a while to appreciate the views. It was just a scenic masterpiece.
It was the top of our climb. I always consider finishing the hardest part of the race my finish line as the rest of the race would be routine. We were about 1,100 meters above sea level and surrounded by mountain ranges with cloud formations sitting below us. It made the climb worth it.
I then headed downward. It was not an easy descent because of the steepness but it took about half the time going down compared to going up. I tried to move fast on the descent yet remained cautious as the drops can really be dangerous. It helped that I had the poles to keep me balanced as well as to reduce the impact on my knees. It was a long and crazy descent but I finally reached the bottom. I went on to the trail downwards though followed a group of runners who went on to the uphill trail instead of the river trail. It was a bit longer and had additional elevation gain but it would also intersect with the main road so no big deal.
We were on the last 6 kilometers of the race and it was really hot already. I went back to the hanging bridge and had soft drinks and several cups of water at the aid station. It really helped cool me down and replenished my energy reserves. I went back to the river trail and brisked walk until I reached the road part and that’s 5 kilometers to go. I decided to have another break this time buying hydration at the store.
The road started with a long climb and I maintained a steady pace. The heat was a challenge as it can really deplete energy fast so I made it a point to take a sip at my hydration bag every now and then. The top of the climb had an overlooking view of the other side of the mountain and Agno River below. There were still several ascent here but it was tolerable considering the long climb at the mountain. I just went at a steady pace as I moved from the main road to the single paved roads and the hanging bridge. I realized that I’ve used up every drop of hydration I have but the good thing was that I was just 1 kilometer away from the finish line so I just brisked walk my way to the finish line.
It was another great and epic race from Cordillera Conservation Trust. I’m happy with my effort in the race as I was consistent all throughout. Hats off to all finishers. It was not an easy race but it’s the tough ones that we’d always treasure. ‘Til the next Cordillera Mountain Run.
Outfit of the Race
- Top: Berghaus with #TaleOfTheTrail Design by Breakout Design
- Shorts: Nike
- GPS Watch: Suunto Ambit 3 Sports
- Cap and Hydration Bag: Under Armour
- Shoes: Salomon Speed Cross
- Trekking Pole: Black Diamond Distance Z Poles
- Socks: Ahon.PH
- Tape: Rocktape:
- Eyewear: Oakley Radarlock Path